I have always loved bees, and I have spent a good part of my life working with them. As a former beekeeper for Rutgers University and someone who still maintains hives in my backyard, I am passionate about bees, and understand and respect the important role they play in our state’s quality of life.
So why am I working for an electric and gas utility? That’s easy. In my current role as the environmental advisor to PSE&G’s transmission construction team, I help ensure that New Jersey’s environment remains hospitable to bees and other important pollinators, such as moths, butterflies, birds and bats.
Our team maintains PSE&G’s nearly 1,000 miles of electric transmission rights-of-way, keeping trees and other vegetation well clear of our transmission lines so that the power keeps flowing to the 2.3 million electric customers PSE&G serves across New Jersey. While this work is essential, we are committed to carrying it out in the most environmentally sensitive way possible. There are approximately 50 different threatened or endangered species of plants and animals known to be living along or adjacent to our transmission rights-of-way. Their presence means that we have to take great care about when and how we do this essential work so we don’t conflict with the various critical life stages of these species.
So just how do carry out this balancing act? With guidance from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I developed a seasonal work plan that times vegetation management activities at different locations along our rights-of-way. This helps our arborists and our contractors plan their work for the year, while ensuring that our work does no harm to these threatened or endangered species.
But we go well beyond preventing harm. We’ve taken a number of steps in concert with our Environmental Projects and Services organization to actually enhance wildlife habitats on our rights-of-way for threatened and endangered species, such as the wood turtle and bog turtle, various species of bats and the Golden Winged Warbler, to name a few. It’s interesting to note that 10 locations along our northern rights-of-way are among the 19 New Jersey nesting habitats of the Golden Winged Warbler. In concert with Audubon and NJ Fish and Game, we have helped preserve these nesting habitats by modifying our activities in these areas.
We have also assisted the New Jersey DEP in banding bald eagles that nested on our towers, and we are planting milkweed and other food sources on our rights-of way for bees and other pollinators, like the monarch butterfly. In fact, we have also established several honey bee hives on a PSE&G wetland mitigation site. I am pleased to say that we have been able to show New Jersey beekeepers associations how these efforts are helping to enhance the pollinator habitat.
We are also working with Dr. Jay Kelly of Raritan Valley College to re-establish one of the rarest plants in New Jersey, American Chaffseed. There are currently only two small populations left in New Jersey, but we have located suitable sites on our southern rights-of-way for re-establishing this rare plant and plan to introduce seedlings.
To underscore our commitment to the environment, our vegetation management team is working toward obtaining a certification from the Right-of-Way Stewardship Council. The certification would recognize that PSE&G is conducting its vegetation maintenance activities in a way that addresses ecological concerns, while enhancing the reliability of our transmission grid.
At PSE&G we know our customers want safe and reliable electricity, but they also expect us to protect the environment in the state we call home. I am proud to be part of a team that is working hard to do both.