Nether Providence Twp. residents fighting to preserve historic trees from PECO project

"This is a battle for the soul of the town," said Swarthmore homeowner Barbara Drebing. "It's a David and Goliath story."

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ByJaclyn Lee via WPVI logo
Tuesday, July 26, 2022
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Residents in Nether Providence Township, Delaware County are fighting for the trees that define neighborhoods like Swarthmore and Wallingford.

NETHER PROVIDENCE TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Residents in Nether Providence Township, Delaware County are fighting for the trees that define neighborhoods like Swarthmore and Wallingford.

"This is a battle for the soul of the town," said Swarthmore homeowner Barbara Drebing. "It's a David and Goliath story."

Homeowners said PECO will be trimming and chopping many of the trees down by the end of the year in order to install taller utility poles.

"It could affect property values, it could affect of course, primarily, the environment, it could increase flooding in the area," said Wallingford resident Jill Davis.

In a statement, PECO said, "This work is essential to enhancing electric reliability for our customers, and through this project, we will install new equipment to reduce outages and minimize the duration of outages that cannot be prevented. Tree trimming and removals are necessary to ensure the required clearance of the new poles and wires from a safety and reliability standpoint."

Davis said PECO wants to remove some of her trees in the front yard and replace them with two utility poles.

"Within the last month, contractors showed up in our front yard and that's when we found out the true scope of the work," said Davis.

In a letter to homeowners, PECO states the work is part of a $1.36 billion dollar project and that the new poles and tree-resistant aerial wires will lead to safe and reliable service.

Barbara Drebing of Swarthmore said PECO marked 12 trees on her property for removal. She said some of the trees have been there for 250 years.

"It'll be a totally different property. Instead of looking at these amazing, beautiful trees, we will be looking at 50-foot poles," said Drebing.

Drebing said PECO is able to cut the trees down due to "right of way." Homeowners said they've proposed alternatives like underground power lines, but PECO said it would require trenching that could impact existing trees.

"Just extremely upsetting and it doesn't seem like a logical solution," said Davis.

PECO also said, "We recognize the importance of trees, which is why we launched our ReLeaf program to expand southeastern PA's urban tree canopy by planting one tree within the region for every tree removed as part of electric reliability maintenance."