SHREVEPORT, La., October 12, 2010 -Trees are part of a community’s greatest assets. But when trees grow into electrical lines, they can be damaged, posing safety hazards and disrupting service. That’s why AEP Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) practices and promotes responsible tree care year-round through its Forestry program. SWEPCO works to manage the growth of trees in neighborhoods, and to protect nearby power lines that provide electric service.
          SWEPCO’s Forestry program was created as a result of a severe ice storm that struck the company’s East Texas and Louisiana service territory 16 years ago. “We developed a program which takes tree health into consideration through proper pruning techniques, as well as reducing power outages and improving service reliability,” says Danny Salter, supervisor of region forestry for SWEPCO.
          It’s important to trim and remove trees near power lines to help prevent power outages during storms. SWEPCO is responsible for trimming trees near its distribution lines (pole-to-pole). AEP employs tree service contractors, who work under the direction of SWEPCO’s professional utility foresters to help provide safe, reliable electricity. 
          “The true mission of the program is reducing tree-related outages,” adds Salter. “During severe storms, wind-blown or ice-laden tree limbs that contact power lines are the most common cause of outages. Our Forestry trimming and planting education program is designed to significantly reduce outages caused by trees.”
          A direct effect of fewer tree-related outages is an increase in improved service reliability to SWEPCO’s 504,000 customers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. Trimming is done systematically by areas of town or major electrical circuits.  Tree removal is encouraged in some cases where potentially hazardous trees grow directly under power lines. If a tree is removed, a SWEPCO utility forester can help property owners select the proper tree to replant.
          SWEPCO tree crews have gained experience through training courses, proper supervision and new methodology, to shorten response time during service restoration efforts after adverse conditions have caused outages.
          The company trims trees using modern arboriculture techniques. Additionally, SWEPCO utilizes environmentally sound practices in its herbicide program. “By selectively applying herbicides approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to stumps and standing brush, we prevent our rights-of-way from becoming overgrown,” says Salter.        
          SWEPCO customers are typically notified of routine trimming through door hangers passed out five days prior to arrival, listing a contractor’s phone number if any customer has a concern about trimming procedures. “Customers are encouraged to plant the right tree in the right place,” says Salter. “We also remind our customers that they are responsible for trimming trees near their service drop (line from pole to the meter), and to make sure tools and equipment are kept at least 10 feet away from power lines.” 
The company’s customer awareness program includes door knockers, civic group presentations, inserts with electric bills, personal visits and brochures. The Tree Tips – A Planning Guide illustrated booklet is available free of charge and offers information on more than 70 trees that grow well in the company’s service area and the best locations to plant them. A copy can be requested by calling toll-free 1-888-216-3523.  
“SWEPCO is committed to balancing the importance of trees with the equally important need to provide reliable electricity to our customers,” adds Salter. 

Scott McCloud, Corporate Communications, 318-673-3532