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Common Questions

Q.  Are tree trimming crews working in my neighborhood?
A.   Use our Tree Trimming Crew Activity Map to monitor crews while they work in the NES service area.

Q.  Why does NES trim trees?
A.   We do it to improve power reliability and to ensure the safety of our customers and crews working in the field. In June 2005, NES completed its initial three-year tree trimming cycle. As a result, power outages compared to the previous three years were down 19 percent.

Q.  How are trees trimmed?
A.   Our number one goal is to keep trees healthy while making sure they don’t interfere with power lines. We follow the lateral pruning method developed by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and approved by the National Arborist Association, National Arbor Day Foundation, and Metro Tree Ordinance. Lateral pruning keeps the overall structure of the tree strong and more resistant to high winds and heavy ice. Future growth is directed away from power lines. NES does not "top" or "round" trees. Topping is discouraged by the National Arbor Day Foundation because it makes trees more susceptible to disease and insect problems.

See illustrations of lateral pruning below.

Before Trimming

After Trimming


The degree to which a tree is trimmed depends on several factors: the tree species, voltage of power lines, and how close branches are to those lines.

Clearance Regulations  
High-voltage transmission lines
15 feet or to the nearest lateral branch
High-voltage distribution lines   
12 ft. for fast-growing trees, 8 ft. for slow-growing trees or to the nearest lateral branch
Low-voltage service lines 
1 to 3 feet of clearance


Q.  Will I be notified of tree trimming in my neighborhood?
A.   Communication is a crucial element, and we will make every attempt to keep you informed throughout the process. You should receive a notice in the mail and a recorded voicemail message before trimming begins. Work planners will attempt to meet with you personally to explain the work that needs to be done. If you can’t be reached, a door hanger will be left at your home explaining what trimming will occur. You are encouraged to call the tree trimming hotline, 615-695-7400, if you have questions.

Q.  Who cleans up the debris after tree trimming?
A.   During normal trimming projects, our contractors will remove and/or chip the tree limbs and debris from the customer's property. When tree debris is caused by a storm or emergency situation, NES does not remove it. Our crews must work quickly to restore power to all customers. Crews may need to cut broken and uprooted trees to make repairs to our lines, but it is the responsibility of the property owner to remove storm tree debris.

Q.  Will NES ever cut down a tree?
A.   Occasionally trees near high-voltage lines need to be removed. If a tree is diseased, dying, storm-damaged, or likely to be severely deformed by necessary trimming, NES crews will trim and remove the tree according to specification. Trees near low-voltage service lines that run to individual homes and businesses will not be removed.

Q.  Why aren't more lines underground?
A.   Burying lines is about five times more expensive than placing them overhead. However, Metro’s Underground Utilities Ordinance requires lines to be buried underground in all new residential developmentsConverting overhead lines to underground in existing developments is much more problematic. Older buildings generally run into electrical code problems, and burying transmission lines along the street can be difficult.

Q.  Where should I plant trees to avoid future problems?
A.   Trees grow to varying heights. Before planting, visualize the height and spread of a mature tree in relation to nearby power lines. Also, for your safety, don’t plant trees or large shrubs within 10 feet of a utility pole. Check out our Right Tree. Right Place. video to learn more.

Mature Tree Height
Distance from Power Lines
25 feet or less
10 feet
25 feet to 50 feet
35 feet
50 feet or more
45 feet

Q.  Can NES legally trim trees?
A.   According to the Municipal Electric Plant Law of 1935 and the Metro Charter, Appendix III, Article 42, NES has the power to purchase, construct, maintain and improve the electric system and to "do all acts and things necessary and convenient" to carry out the power given. Courts in Tennessee clearly support a public utility's right to trim and remove trees, both within and outside of the right-of-way.

Q.  Who can I contact for tree trimming related questions? 
A.   Call our tree trimming hotline at 615-695-7400.