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Tree Trimming Reimbursement

Appeal Brief Appeal Letter

Appeal Brief

DisasterFEMA-3288-EM
ApplicantSumter Electric Cooperative, Inc.
Appeal TypeSecond
PA ID#000-UB6WH-00
PW ID#244
Date Signed2011-03-28T04:00:00

Citation:         FEMA-3288-EM-FL, Sumter Electric Cooperative, Tree Trimming Reimbursement, Project Worksheet (PW) 244

Cross-
Reference:      Emergency Protective Measures

Summary:        In anticipation of Tropical Storm Faye debris removal-related activities, the Sumter Electric Cooperative (Applicant) hired debris removal contractor crews and placed the crews in standby mode while waiting for the storm to make landfall.  During this standby mode the Applicant used the crews to perform preventative tree trimming along power lines throughout its service area.  The Applicant submitted documentation to support $1,134,881 in debris removal and tree trimming costs.  FEMA prepared PW 244 to document eligible disaster-related debris removal for costs totaling $736,315.  The remaining costs totaling $399,134 for pre-storm tree trimming were determined ineligible because they were not incurred as a direct result of the declared event, even though the costs were incurred during the disaster incident period of August 18 through September 12, 2008.

The Applicant submitted a first appeal on June 25, 2009, stating that it cut as many trees as it could in the projected path of the storm in order to mitigate against possible widespread power outages and damage.  The State indicated that although the pre-storm tree trimming mirrored the Applicant’s routine maintenance activities, the tree trimming costs are eligible Emergency Protective Measures as the Applicant’s actions were undertaken to lessen the immediate and imminent threats to lives, property, public health and safety.  The Regional Administrator determined the costs associated with pre-storm trimming of undamaged trees were not a direct result of the disaster and that the tree trimming activities were typically handled as part of the Applicant’s routine maintenance measures.  In its second appeal dated May 19, 2010, the Applicant reiterates the same position it claims in the first appeal.  The Applicant explains that it has a vegetative management program that identifies electric lines most impacted by tree easements and develops a list of prioritized sites for maintenance to minimize tree-related outages as a result of storms. The Applicant instructed idle crews to trim trees as a preventative measure at sites identified on the maintenance list while waiting for Tropical Storm Faye to make landfall. 

Issue:         Is the tree trimming work an eligible emergency      protective measure?

Finding:        No.

Rationale:     Section 502, Federal emergency assistance; 44 CFR §206.225(a)(3)(i)(ii), Emergency work, General.

Appeal Letter

March 28, 2011

 

Bryan Koon

Director

State of Florida Division of Emergency Management

36 Skyline Drive

Lake Mary, Florida 32746

Re:       Second Appeal–Sumter Electric Cooperative, Inc, PA ID 000-UB6WH-00, Tree Trimming Reimbursement, FEMA-3288-EM-FL, Project Worksheet (PW) 244

Dear Mr. Koon:

This letter is in response to your letter dated July 21, 2010, which transmitted the referenced second appeal on behalf of the Sumter Electric Cooperative, Inc (Applicant).  The Applicant is appealing the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) denial of reimbursement of $399,134 for costs related to tree trimming activities preceding Tropical Storm Faye.

Background
In anticipation of Tropical Storm Faye, the Applicant hired debris removal contractor crews and placed the crews in standby mode while waiting for the storm to make landfall.  During this time the Applicant used the crews to perform preventative tree trimming along power lines throughout its service area.  On March 24, 2009, FEMA prepared PW 244 to document eligible disaster-related debris removal for costs totaling $736,315.  The Applicant submitted additional documentation for pre-storm tree trimming costs totaling $399,134.  FEMA determined that these costs were not incurred as a direct result of the declared event, even though the work was completed during the incident period of August 18 through September 12, 2008.
First Appeal
The Applicant submitted a first appeal on June 25, 2009, stating that it cut as many trees as it could in the projected path of the storm in order to mitigate against possible widespread power outages and damage to power systems.  It also argued that the work was within the scope of Section 602 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Emergency Preparedness.  The State in support of the Applicant’s first appeal indicated that although the pre-storm tree trimming mirrored the Applicant’s routine maintenance activities undertaken throughout the year, the tree trimming costs are eligible for Public Assistance, Category B, emergency protective measures, as the Applicant’s actions were undertaken to lessen the immediate and imminent threats to lives, property, public health and safety. 
In a letter dated March 5, 2010, the Regional Administrator determined that the costs associated with pre-storm trimming of undamaged trees were not a direct result of the incident and that the tree trimming activities were typically handled as part of the Applicant’s routine maintenance measures.  Therefore, the costs were not eligible for reimbursement under the Public Assistance Program.  

Second Appeal

The Applicant submitted its second appeal on May 19, 2010, which the State transmitted to FEMA on July 21, 2010.  The Applicant reiterates the same position it claimed in the first appeal.  The Applicant explains that it has a comprehensive vegetative management program that identifies electric lines most impacted by tree easements and develops a list of prioritized sites for tree work in order to minimize tree-related outages as a result of storms.  The work is performed until budgeted funds are exhausted.  The Applicant further explains that it instructed the debris removal crews to trim trees as a preventative measure at sites identified on the maintenance list while waiting for Tropical Storm Faye to make landfall.  

Discussion

Section 502 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Federal emergency assistance, provides for assistance to save lives and protect property and public health and safety.  Pursuant to 44 CFR §206.225(a)(3)(i)(ii), Emergency work, “In order to be eligible, emergency protective measures must eliminate or lessen immediate threats to life, public health or safety; or eliminate or lessen immediate threats of significant additional damage to improved public or private property through measures which are cost effective.” The performance of routine maintenance is not eligible as an emergency protective measure.  Therefore, the costs for tree trimming that preceded the disaster are not eligible for Public Assistance funding.

Conclusion

I have reviewed the information submitted with the appeal and have determined that the Regional Administrator’s decision in the first appeal is consistent with Public Assistance Program regulations and policies. Therefore, I am denying the Applicant’s second appeal.

Please inform the Applicant of my decision.  This determination is the final decision on this matter pursuant to 44 CFR §206.206, Appeals.

Sincerely,

/s/

Deborah Ingram

Assistant Administrator

Recovery Directorate

cc:  Major P. May

       Regional Administrator

       FEMA Region IV

Last updated February 4, 2020