Oncor Apologizes for Contractor Destroying Trees

Residents of Northeast Dallas Casa Linda neighborhood are angry

NBC Universal, Inc.

Big trees cut to stumps by an Oncor contractor have neighbors in the Northeast Dallas Casa Linda area very angry.

The company confirms advance notice policy was violated with the work and it apologized to neighbors Wednesday in a statement shared with NBC 5.

Oncor says an investigation of the contractor’s work is underway.

A large area of the tree removal is behind the home of Dalton Pfiffner who used the wooded area for the pediatric therapy she provides.

“I had kids having a rough day on the autism spectrum, a variety of diagnoses. The kids were having a rough day. We would oftentimes take them back into the woods to just calm, stay in nature,” Pfiffner said.

Now she has flags in the ground marking the stumps in the clearcut area where large trees used to stand.

Her neighbor, Master Naturalist Julie Whitmire, recalls the thick vegetation that used to be there.

“It’s like a bomb went off or something. It’s destruction. It’s just destruction,” she said.

The property owner said she returned from spring break vacation to find workers just about finished clearing the trees.

Residents said they were told after the work that power provider Oncor hired the contractor to clear the way for a pole replacement project. But there are no power poles on Pfiffner’s private property where the tree clearing was done.

Her neighbors joined forces to complain.

“We really need to have an understanding in the neighborhood before they continue the project which is planned, on the other side here of Buckner. There’s a whole other neighborhood, part of our neighborhood that’s going to be impacted,” resident Angela Kutac said.

Whitmire said neighbors moved to the area because of the trees and natural surroundings.

“We love having electricity, but if they could have been specific about what they needed to take out and why,” she said.

Dallas has been promoting more trees to help improve poor North Texas air quality.

"We’re interacting with nature all the time and for our health, as human beings, we need all of this," Whitmire said.

Dallas Environmental Commission Chairperson Kathryn Bazan alerted NBC 5 to the situation. She provided a statement Wednesday:

“While Oncor has a responsibility to maintain reliable infrastructure for customers, it's concerning that trees and understory vegetation beyond those necessary for access were removed and that residents were not notified or given any opportunity for input. Trees provide neighborhoods with a multitude of benefits.

The city cannot reach its climate goals without the support of external partners, and we need anyone who has as much contact with trees as Oncor does to give significant thought to cutting down the assets that help us reach those goals,” Bazan said.

Oncor spokesperson Kerri Dunn also provided a statement Wednesday:  

"We should have notified our customers in the Casa Linda neighborhood before this project started. We didn’t and we apologize. We have worked hard to establish thorough communications protocols before trimming work is performed and these were not followed by our contractor. We are reviewing their work and investigating why our communication protocols were not followed. We are also in the process of meeting with customers in the neighborhood to discuss possible next steps and keep them updated on our ongoing review.

Also, just in case it’s helpful context, the work was performed to support the safe replacement of distribution poles as part of a maintenance project focused on service reliability. We have paused this project while our investigation continues.” Dunn said.

Dalton Pfiffner said there is no easy way to fix the damage that was done to old trees.

“No, this would take decades if not a century,” she said.

The contractor that she has been told Oncor hired for the job is a firm that normally does underground utility work and not tree trimming.

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