For the last four years, the Town of Chapel Hill has had a unique agreement with Duke Energy that they not spray herbicides under most of our power lines within town limits, due to our concerns that such herbicides are toxic generally, that they seep into our groundwater, and because very tall pine trees that were sprayed have died and turned brown. Such leftover groupings of large dead trees have been deemed a fire hazard by our Town Fire Chief.  

At a recent council meeting, Duke Energy was back, telling the Town it wanted to start its spraying again, because it was a nuisance that the Town was the only one in which they had an agreement, and that they wanted to spray tree stumps with herbicides so they didn’t have to keep coming back to take care of that growth. 

When I told Duke Energy’s representatives that night that our Fire Chief had said that the large groups of dead brown trees that they had sprayed were a fire hazard, they said that was subject to debate. They had never heard of a fire coming from those trees and that they would just eventually fall over. I had to of course inform him of my personal experience seeing a fire start in an easement with a cigarette thrown in the easement and a very swift moving fire of those pine trees under the power lines that threatened our neighborhood. Duke Energy may think our Fire Chief’s analysis is subject to debate, but facts are facts. 

Duke Energy has said that costs prohibit bush hogging their 56,000 miles of easements. What cost is life and limb and the respiratory tracts of citizens in dense cities in which this spraying of large trees occurs? Duke Energy needs to treat their easements differently in dense cities and towns across the state, and mitigate the fire hazards they have left in the wake of their COST cutting.