Frequently Asked Questions
These questions and answers are intended to address most situations, but are not meant to cover all circumstances encountered on transmission and distribution vegetation management work.
We’ve noticed a lot more tree crews in our area recently. Why are you cutting/trimming more than you used to?
Proactive vegetation management has always been an important part of the Duke Energy Progress commitment to maintaining reliable service across the Carolinas. Duke Energy Progress has historically taken a reliability-based approach to identifying and mitigating vegetation issues on our system (meaning pruning priority was given to areas that posed potential reliability concerns, rather that pruning all easements on a designated cycle).
While this strategy has helped to significantly reduce overall outages across our system caused by vegetation, some parts of our service area have recently been experiencing a higher number of tree-related outages, compared to the four-year average. As such, Duke Energy Progress is increasing its investment in vegetation management to incorporate a new, cycle-based trimming model into its practices. Under this model, electric lines will be proactively trimmed at established, regular intervals.
Customers may notice increased activity during this project.
How can trees affect my power?
Trees can affect power in a number of different ways. Service reliability can be affected by trees, either at the precise location where a tree may contact a line, at other locations on that line or at other locations on the interconnected electric grid. Fallen trees can interrupt power to many customers. In a worst case scenario, a tree can tear down the entire line and break the poles that hold the line in place.
It's not necessary for a tree to tear down a line to disrupt power. Trees can seem a safe distance from the line, but limbs can still blow against the line and the line can sag and sway in high winds. When limbs come into contact with the line, protective equipment will generally de-energize the line. Electrical blinks and flickers may be experienced if intermittent, short duration contacts are made with the line. Interruptions can also be caused by high growing brush or vines. If you have concerns about trees or vines growing near power lines, please contact Duke Energy Progress at 800.452.2777. A customer service representative will be happy to assist you.
Are there safety issues surrounding trees and power lines?
Duke Energy Progress maintains around 40,000 miles of overhead transmission and distribution lines in the Carolinas. Maintaining vegetation around these lines is essential to maintaining reliability and ensuring the safety of the customers we serve. Trees growing near power lines could potentially cause a fire and be an electrical hazard to the public. They can also cause safety hazards for our crews.
In addition, lines carrying a high electricity load can heat up and sag, potentially coming into contact with trees that previously appeared a safe distance from lines. As such, we must sometimes trim or remove trees that may not seem to be an immediate threat to the power line.
Trees and other vegetation are the leading cause of power outages in the Southeast. Fallen trees can not only interrupt power to customers, they can also, in some extreme cases, tear down the entire line and break the poles that hold the line in place. Downed lines pose a serious danger to the public. If you see a downed line, always assume it is energized and stay away. Never try to drive over a downed power line. If you see a downed line, contact Duke Energy Progress' outage reporting line at 800-419-6356.
Duke Energy Progress is committed to minimizing outages and safety risks by maintaining trees and vegetation along its transmission and distribution rights of way.
My trees haven’t caused any power outages. Why are you cutting or pruning them?
Proactive vegetation management has always been an important part of Duke Energy Progress' commitment to maintaining reliable service across the Carolinas. Duke Energy Progress has historically taken a reliability-based approach to identifying and mitigating vegetation issues on our system (meaning pruning priority was given to areas that posed potential reliability concerns, rather that pruning all easements on a designated cycle).
While this strategy has helped to significantly reduce overall outages across our system caused by vegetation, some parts of our service area have recently been experiencing a higher number of tree-related distribution line outages, compared to the four-year average. As such, Duke Energy Progress is increasing its investment in vegetation management to incorporate a new, cycle-based trimming model into its practices.
As part of this cycle-based approach, we will now be trimming trees at regular intervals and customers may notice increased activity during this project.
Are trees trimmed or removed for the installation of new electric lines?
When selecting and installing new electric line routes, we evaluate a number of factors that include impact to property owners, the community and the environment, as well as schedule, cost and regulatory requirements. Typically, in this part of the country, any route that is chosen involves a conflict with trees. We prune and/or remove the necessary trees and vegetation in order to properly install poles and lines. The width of the right of way or easement, as well as the scope of vegetation management required, is dependent on the type and voltage of the line being constructed.
Will I be notified before a tree crew comes to cut trees in my yard?
In residential, commercial and maintained areas, Duke Enrgy Progress customers are typically notified with a minimum of three days notice, prior to vegetation maintenance work commencing. Notification includes identifying the trees to be removed. Notification methods vary depending on the type and voltage of the line. Notification is typically made via door hanger, but may also include a telephone call, letter, in-person contact or a combination of these methods. A point of contact will also be provided should you have questions or concerns about the work being done. If our attempts to notify you are unsuccessful, work will proceed without further direct notification. Although a minimum of three days notice is typical, there are exceptions: a tree may be trimmed or removed sooner with customer acknowledgement or if it is a danger tree. Danger trees include those that are dead, diseased or damaged, and/or pose a threat to the safe and reliable operation of the line.
Does Duke Energy Progress trim or remove trees other than those near power lines?
We are only involved with the maintenance and removal of trees and other vegetation that might endanger the safe and reliable operation of poles and lines for the delivery of electricity. These may include trees inside or outside the right of way that are damaged, diseased, dead/dying or are otherwise unsafe or pose a risk to the facilities.
Integrated Vegetation Management Process
How does Duke Energy Progress decide when to prune?
As part of our integrated, cycle-based vegetation management plan, trees and vegetation will be maintained at regular intervals based on a number of factors that include the type and voltage of the line, width of the right of way, and any federal, state and local requirements that govern vegetation management.
Maintenance cycles are carried out regardless of the outage history of a particular line. We do, however, work to identify vegetation that poses an immediate threat to system reliability and take steps to prevent vegetation-related outages.
How often does Duke Energy Progress trim trees in my area?
Duke Energy Progress trims trees in its rights of way to ensure it can deliver safe, reliable service to its customers. The company has established a cycle-based strategy to prioritize its circuits for trimming, meaning that lines will be maintained at regular, established intervals. The cycle varies depending on the type and voltage of the line, but is typically every six years for transmission and distribution lines.
This approach allows Duke Energy Progress to trim more often, thereby reducing the number of large outages and increasing the overall reliability of the entire circuit. We also work to identify vegetation that poses an immediate threat to system reliability and take steps to prevent vegetation-related outages.
Trimming trees and vegetation
How much will be cut from my trees?
Trimming practices vary based on the voltage and type of line, right of way width, type of tree being trimmed and the tree's proximity to the line, as well as any federal, state and local requirements that govern vegetation management.
When managing vegetation along distribution lines, trees with trunks that are located close to the power line require much heavier pruning than trees located farther from the line. In some cases, the tree may even need to be removed to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the line.
When pruning operations are performed, our trimming experts will trim sufficient clearance, as allowed by our right of way and easement agreements, so that the tree should not interfere with the line before we return on our next routine maintenance cycle.
How do you trim yard trees? Does Duke Energy Progress "round-over" and/or "shape" trees?
Duke Energy Progress uses a variety of vegetation management methods in its integrated approach to managing trees and other vegetation along its transmission and distribution lines. Trimming practices vary based on the voltage and type of line, as well as the type of tree and its proximity to the line.
Duke Energy Progress' standard approach for distribution lines is to not top or "round over" trees, but to use a technique called directional pruning when trimming yard trees. Directional pruning helps to maintain the health of your tree while establishing acceptable clearance between energized wires and tree branches.This technique was developed by the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), approved by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI), and adopted by the pruning industry as its standard. It is endorsed and promoted by the National Arbor Day Foundation and the International Society of Arboriculture.
With directional pruning, entire limbs or portions of limbs growing toward the lines are removed back to the main branch or trunk. They are removed at a point where they would naturally shed if they died from natural causes. By doing this, future growth will be directed away from the wires, and rapidly growing, weakly attached sprouts will be minimized. Removing the branches at the point where they normally shed preserves the tree's natural defense system as well as leaving other natural protection processes intact.
To provide adequate clearance and help maintain tree health, our trained tree crews evaluate each tree to determine the tree's structure and growth pattern. This assessment is used to decide which limbs should be removed to accomplish these goals. In some cases, the tree may need to be removed to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the line.
For transmission lines, Duke Energy Progress avoids topping or "rounding over" yard trees. Any tree or vegetation that exists or is planted within Duke Energy Progress' transmission line rights of way that can mature at a height greater than 12 feet or potentially interfere with the safe and reliable operation of the line will be evaluated for removal, unless there is an encroachment application with written approval. Vegetation within the right of way that could grow or fall into the conductor will be removed. Trees and other vegetation along the edge and outside of the right-of-way will be evaluated for removal or side-trimming.
Are there situations when you might prune a tree one time and then decide to remove it the next time?
Yes. Trees are evaluated each time we conduct vegetation maintenance and a tree that was pruned one time may be identified for removal during the next maintenance cycle. Trimming practices vary based on the voltage and type of line, right of way width, type of tree being trimmed and the tree's proximity to the line, as well as any federal, state and local requirements that govern vegetation management.
When pruning operations are performed, our trimming experts will trim sufficient clearance, as allowed by our right of way and easement agreements, so that the tree should not interfere with the line before we return on our next routine maintenance cycle. In some cases, the tree may need to be removed to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the line.
Are there any special circumstances that would cause Duke Energy Progress to limit tree pruning to less than 15' on either side of the right-of-way?
Yes, there are special circumstances that may include: (1) the proper ANSI cut is not exactly 15' from the center line, (2) the trunk of a mature tree is established within 15' of the center line, (3) the trees are inhabited by endangered species, (4) the tree is a slow growing species, or (5) there is a Department of Transportation encroachment. In some cases, DEP may have had an easement that provides less than 15' on either side.
Why can't you just place these lines underground?
Placing existing lines underground can be a very complex process that involves extensive trenching, as well as installation of underground vaults and other equipment. Trees growing in or along the right of way have root systems that could be damaged by underground excavation and equipment, which could harm the tree and ultimately result in the tree needing to be removed. Underground installations are also typically more expensive to install and maintain than overhead lines.
While underground lines are protected from most interference from trees or limbs, they are still subject to faults. In our experience with underground distribution circuits, we have found that underground cables do deteriorate over time. And when a fault occurs, it is much more difficult to locate and fix. If a problem occurs in an underground transmission line, it could affect whole substations and thousands of customers for lengthy periods.
Are the tree trimmers trained and professional?
Duke Energy Progress ensures that all tree trimming crews are trained in proper techniques and comply with our approved vegetation management practice and safety policies. We also have certified arborists and specialists with degrees in forestry on our staff who oversee all facets of our vegetation management programs.
Why can't I maintain the trees myself?
Pruning trees around power lines should only be attempted by trained professionals. Serious injuries and even fatalities have occurred when untrained individuals do this work without the assistance of qualified professionals.
Duke Energy Progress maintains more than 40,000 miles of overhead lines on its system. It would be impossible for us to monitor whether or not property owners maintain vegetation consistently and in accordance with federal rules and regulations, to preserve system reliability and safety.
Can a licensed commercial tree trimming firm get help from Duke Energy Progress in trimming or removing trees near power lines?
We do not encourage any untrained person to remove trees adjacent to power lines or to do tree work around energized lines. Duke Energy Progress has representatives available that can make evaluations on a case-by-case basis. The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 states that an untrained person should not work within 10 feet of overhead energized distribution lines (and greater distances for transmission) lines. In general, it is not recommended that any individual who is not trained in utility line clearance tree work should perform tree work adjacent to power lines.
Is there a charge for trimming trees on my property?
No. Tree trimming is a part of our responsibility to ensure safe, reliable electric service for our customers. The cost of managing the natural growth around power lines is a part of the rates approved by the utility commissions in North Carolina and South Carolina.
Is Duke Energy Progress responsible for clean-up after trimming trees?
The majority of our pruning and cutting occurs during routine line maintenance cycles. In maintained or landscape settings, our policy is to dispose of any small limbs and brush. The larger pieces of wood are cut into manageable (but not necessarily firewood) lengths for your use. In non-landscaped sites, pruned vegetation and wood is left in place. This material will bio-degrade into its natural components.
When storms cause trees or other vegetation to fall across power lines and cause outages, we cut the trees and brush so poles and lines can be replaced and re-energized. Disposal of any wood, limbs or debris resulting from this type of emergency operation is the responsibility of the property owner.
Who trims tree limbs that interfere with the light levels or pattern of light from streetlights?
It's your responsibility to maintain (or have maintained) the growth of any trees interfering with the lighting pattern. During our routine circuit pruning cycle, Duke Energy Progress will prune any vegetation that may damage the actual light fixture or the conductors supplying power to the light.
Duke Energy Progress urges customers to take caution when working around these lines. Pruning trees around power lines should only be attempted by trained professionals. Serious injuries and even fatalities have occurred when untrained individuals do this work without the assistance of qualified professionals.
I saw you trimming in my neighborhood, but you didn’t trim the line that runs to my house. Why?
Service lines that provide electricity from a utility pole directly to a home or business are generally the customer's responsibility to maintain. Duke Energy Progress contract crews will typically trim around an individual service line during routine maintenance on the connecting line if they identify vegetation that is pushing the line horizontally or vertically out of place. Duke Energy Progress will also come and de-energize a service line upon request, and at no cost, so that a customer or their contractor can safely trim vegetation around the line.
Duke Energy Progress urges customers to take caution when working around these lines. Pruning trees around power lines should only be attempted by trained professionals. Serious injuries and even fatalities have occurred when untrained individuals do this work without the assistance of qualified professionals.
Do tree crews have free mulch available?
Wood chips and leaf mulch are produced when the branches of pruned trees are fed through a chipper. This mulch can be delivered free to customers in the area where Duke Energy Progress contractor tree crews are working. A truckload of mulch is equivalent to approximately three to four pick-up truckloads. If you see a tree crew working in your neighborhood and you would like a load of mulch, contact them for details.
When is it necessary to remove trees instead of pruning them away from the power lines?
The decision to remove a tree rather than trimming it is based on a number of factors such as the height and health of the tree, proximity of the tree to the line, the type and voltage of the line, and any right of way requirements associated with the line.
As the rated voltage of the line increases, so does the right of way width requirement. For smaller distribution lines, the right of way clearance may only be about 15 feet on either side of the line. For higher-voltage transmission lines, the right of way total width may be as much as 180 feet or greater in multi-line corridors.
Certain varieties of lower-growing trees and vegetation may be planted within the right of way, based on the location, mature height and growing habit of the plant. A list of compatible vegetation that may typically be planted in the right of way can be found here. Please note that the height of different cultivars for a given species may vary.
In general, Duke Energy Progress does not recommend planting trees within the right of way or directly beneath a line. Even trees identified as compatible may be subject to removal if they pose a threat to the safe, reliable operation or access and maintenance of the line. Additionally, compatible trees mixed in with other non-compatible species or those located in non-landscaped, unmaintained areas may be subject to removal.
Please note that varieties of approved vegetation differ between transmission and distribution rights of way. If you are unsure of which type of right of way you are planting in, please contact Duke Energy Progress or ask the representative assigned to your trimming location.
Is it possible that a tree species that is compatible with a distribution line right-of-way could be removed during routine maintenance?
Yes, Duke Energy Progress's rights-of-way in non-landscaped/unmaintained areas are initially mowed, making identification of compatible vs. non-compatible species impractical. Therefore, compatible as well as incompatible species are subject to removal through mowing. However, after the non-landscaped/non-maintained area is mowed, follow up herbicide applications are applied to the volunteer, woody vegetation that is incompatible with DEP's rights of way. Compatible species are not targeted for herbicide application.
Will you pay me for the trees you cut?
No. The right to remove trees is covered under the easement purchased by or granted to Duke Energy Progress (or its predecessors) from the original grantor.
Why are you cutting trees down now when you have always trimmed them before?
Some parts of our service area have recently been experiencing a higher number of tree-related outages, compared to the four-year average. For some of our higher voltage transmission lines, we may be fined up to $1 million per day for outages caused by vegetation.
We are taking proactive steps to maintain the right of way to conform with our new, cycle-based trimming model. The easements obtained by Duke Energy Progress grant it the right to clear any tree that poses a threat to the safety of the public and the reliable operation of the line. Danger trees includes those that are dead, diseased or damaged, and/or pose a threat to the safe and reliable operation of the line. Danger trees can be located inside or outside of the Duke Energy Progress right of way. We may also contact the customer to discuss the removal of trees to eliminate reliability issues due to re-growth during the vegetation maintenance cycle period.
In addition, when lines are carrying a high electricity load, they can heat up, expand and sag, potentially coming into contact with trees that previously appeared a safe distance from the lines. Trees and vegetation that were previously pruned or trimmed might not have posed enough of a risk to warrant removal. Now these same trees pose a potential risk and need to be removed.
Trees and vegetation that may interfere with the line before we return on our next routine maintenance cycle may also be subject to removal.
Why are you cutting down my tree(s) and not my neighbors' trees?
Duke Energy Progress evaluates the need to remove trees on its rights of way based on such factors as species of the tree(s), their size, and their proximity to the line. Those factors may differ even for the same line on identical rights of way on neighboring properties. Generally speaking, however, if a tree is inside a transmission line right of way and is taller than 12 feet, the tree will be evaluated for removal. Trees and vegetation along distribution lines can often be trimmed rather than removed. If, however, the vegetation poses a threat to the line that cannot be resolved by trimming, or if the vegetation may interfere with the line before we return on our next routine maintenance cycle, it may be subject to removal.
What gives Duke Energy Progress the right to cut my trees some of which may not even be within the right-of-way strip?
Before a power line is built, Duke Energy Progress acquires easements from property owners along the selected route. The easements obtained by Duke Energy Progress grant it the right to clear any tree that poses a threat to the safety of the public and the reliable operation of the line. Trees that exceed mature height requirements for the right of way, are dead/dying, diseased or damaged, leaning toward the conductors or are otherwise unsafe or pose a risk to the facilities are considered danger trees. Danger trees can be located inside or outside of the Duke Energy Progress right of way.
Will you cut the wood into fireplace length?
On most rights of way, we do not cut wood into firewood length. In an improved area or yard where necessary to facilitate disposal, the contract tree crew may cut the wood into shorter lengths, with some sections down to firewood length.
Will you grind the stump?
Duke Energy Progress does not typically remove stumps. The stump will be cut as low as feasible with a chainsaw and will decompose over time.
Can I replace a tree that has been cut down?
Yes, provided the vegetation is compatible with our right of way policies. View our Before You Plant page for suggested trees and shrubs that are generally compatible with our lines and pad-mounted transformers. Please note that compatible trees differ by line type and voltage. If you are unsure whether you are planting near a transmission or distribution line, please contact your designated Duke Energy Progress right-of-way representative, or call our customer service center at 800.452.2777.
Herbicides and growth regulators
How do you decide when to use herbicides?
In the Carolinas, we use herbicides to control undesirable vegetation along the transmission and distribution right-of-way floor. Herbicide treatments are performed on vegetation when growth is immature, such as after the right of way has been mowed and the root systems of the brush have had a chance to resprout. Follow-up treatments are applied in order to control any of the brush that might have been missed on the initial treatment or may have reseeded through natural succession before the next herbicide cycle. Where appropriate, herbicides are used as a method of vegetation control on transmission rights of way. Herbicides may also be applied on areas of line rights of ways that cannot be effectively, or efficiently, mowed or hand-cut.
This technique allows compatible vegetation to effectively grow in the right of way. By encouraging this compatible vegetation, Duke Energy Progress can actually decrease the extent of vegetation removal that may normally be required in future years.
All herbicide use is conducted in compliance with local, state and federal regulations.
What types of herbicides does Duke Energy Progress use?
The herbicides used by Duke Energy Progress are some of the same products you may use to control vegetation around your home. Trained and professional maintenance crews use backpack sprayers to selectively apply the product to manage plant growth in a safe and environmentally-friendly manner. All products used by Duke Energy Progress are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and appropriate state agencies. View more details on the herbicides used to spray brush in the Carolinas and links to the labels and Manufacturing Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each herbicide.
What if I have questions or concerns about the use of herbicides on my property?
Herbicide use is a standard practice used by electric utilities and others, including agricultural and landscape management companies, state departments of transportation, railroads, forest services, the military, municipalities, golf courses, airports, schools and universities and property owners.
Customers, such as organic farming operations, who may have questions or concerns about herbicide use on their property can contact Duke Energy Progress at 800.452.2777.
What are tree growth regulators and when are they used?
Tree growth regulators are chemical compounds that effectively shorten the amount of limb growth that would otherwise be produced by an untreated tree. The results of treatment typically produce a more dense and darker green tree, as the same number of branches and leaves are being produced by the tree, but in a more compact space.
Tree growth regulators are often applied after trimming on the tree has been completed. They can be an effective tool to help keep trees away from distribution power lines and reduce the need for future pruning. The use of tree growth regulators is typically reserved for fast-growing trees that are located close to the distribution wires and require frequent pruning.
The most common methods for applying tree growth regulators involve applying the compound to the soil near the roots or directly into the tree itself. The effect of the treatment will generally last between two and five years.
Tree growth regulators are used to maintain trees only along distribution power lines.
What types of trees and/or plants may be planted near transformers and power lines?
Duke Energy Progress does not recommend planting trees within the rights of way or directly beneath a line. If planting near distribution lines, certain precautions must be taken when choosing a tree.
If you intend to plant in the vicinity of the transmission right of way, please consult the Transmission Use Guidelines and Selecting Trees for Transmission Rights of Way. To determine the easement width, please refer to your property documents or contact Duke Energy Progress. Ensuring our right of way is clear of obstructions enhances our ability to safely and efficiently maintain our equipment and to restore power following severe storms.
Trees come in all shapes and sizes, and there are many trees that can be planted under or near power lines that will not result in interference. Selecting the proper tree can eliminate or reduce the need for pruning.
View our Before you Plant page for suggested trees and shrubs that are generally compatible with our lines and pad-mounted transformers. Please note that compatible trees differ by line type and voltage. If you are unsure whether you are planting near a transmission or distribution line, please contact your designated Duke Energy Progress right-of-way representative, or call our customer service center at 800.452.2777.
When should I contact Duke Energy Progress about working around power lines (landscaping, house painting, etc.)?
In North Carolina, the Overhead High-Voltage Line Safety Act requires anyone working or lifting within 10 feet of overhead distribution power lines or poles to contact the appropriate electric utility through the North Carolina One-Call Center at 8-1-1 or 800.632.4949.
A comparable statute does not exist in South Carolina, but we recommend that you take the same precaution by contacting us at 800.452.2777. For assistance in locating and marking underground utility lines, call 8-1-1 or:
Contacting Duke Energy Progress
Whom can I contact for more information?
In addition to information available on this website, customers who have questions or concerns about right-of-way or vegetation management can contact a Duke Energy Progress customer service representative by calling 800.452.2777 or visiting our Contact Us page. Our customer service representatives can provide general information on vegetation and right-of-way issues and can connect customers to a forester or right-of-way expert, if needed.
Who can I appeal to about the decision to cut my trees?
If you have questions about your rights concerning the transmission easement, the forester can refer you to a Duke Energy Progress land agent to provide answers.