The Public Service Commission cannot guarantee our lights will stay in in the next big storm. But the commission thinks it has improved the chances that they will.

Major wind and ice storms last year and last winter snapped thousands of tree limbs that brought down hundreds of power lines…and left hundreds of thousands of Missourians without electricity.

The PSC had adopted the first state standards for tree trimming by investor-owned utilities after two months of study and negotiations.;

But the commission had to back down from its original proposal that would have cost consumers an extra 300-million dollars a year. Commission chairman Jeff Davis says the revised rules will increase rates by 15-million dollars. But he says the rules retain 80 to 90 percent of the reliability improvements sought. He says Missourians need to understand there will never be a 100 percent reliable system no matter how much is spent.

The rules also require utilities to directly contact customers who have trees that threaten power lines that are outside the utility’s right of way and ask permission to cut back the trees that threaten the lines.

The original proposal said no limbs could be in contact with lines. But Davis says that wasn’t practical, would have driven up rates to an excessive level, and would have caused problems with private property owners.

The new rules do not apply to municipal utilities or to cooperatives.

download Bob Priddy’s story (:60 mp3)