Pennsylvania bill would help to remove ‘ghost poles’

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM)– Utility poles dot the Pennsylvania landscape and many of them serve no purpose because they’ve been replaced by newer ones.

Many lawmakers call them eyesores and a safety hazard but the state has little power to get them removed.

At 22, Alec Ryncavage is the youngest member of the state house, but he’s no political newbie. The Luzerne County Republican was elected at 17 to Plymouth Borough Council and took office at 18.

Ryncavage was frustrated by a cluster of abandoned telephone poles. He tried to get them removed with limited success.

“It’s also a safety hazard,” Ryncavage said. “These poles are oftentimes hanging over bus stops.”

That’s the genesis of his house bill 1619. It would tell the Public Utility Commission to create rules, a process and oversight for these so-called ghost poles which Ryncavage wants to see disappear in a more timely fashion.

“So that everybody can understand what their role is and how long they have to be,” Ryncavage said.

The power companies must hate it, right?

“Well, we actually welcome the bill and we support it,” Energy Association of Pennsylvania President Terry Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick says knocking down unsightly and under-utilized poles is not so easy. It requires untangling bureaucratic wires of which companies own which polls, and which wires? The industry, he says, would welcome PUC clarity.

“It’s a real coordination issue,” Fitzpatrick said. “And you have a lot of new players now with all these communications technologies and firms attaching to the poles. So that’s part of what happened here.”

Also happening, every company that has a wire on the pole has to sign off on its removal, which takes time. There are regulations that it be done quickly but no real penalties if they don’t.

“They have contractual agreements with their contractors and these pole attachment companies, but there is a missing oversight component to it,” Ryncavae said. “And it’s very rare that you see utility companies asking for regulation.”

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Municipalities have complained that they don’t know who to talk to at a specific company to get rid of those ghost poles. So this bill would also create a registry, a master list with contact names from each company of who to call. Pennsylvania bill would help to remove ‘ghost poles’

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