Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Tree Cutting and Power Lines

By Katherine Bostick ; Updated September 21, 2017
Trees should be trimmed back when they grow too close to power lines.

Tree limbs that grow to close to power lines can cause interference with the delivery of electricity. If the tree limbs are actually touching the power lines, it could be a fire hazard to surrounding homes. However, cutting back the tree limbs should be done by a professional. The possibility of injury to a person cutting back the tree limbs without the needed expertise could be serious or deadly.

Why Cutback Trees

The electrical wires connected to power lines carry between 50 to 100 times more electricity than that which goes into each home. Trees that grow too close to power lines can catch fire and burn not just the trees, but surrounding homes as well. The trees can also absorb electricity from the power lines and become electrified, thereby creating an electrical hazard to anyone walking near them.

Clearance Requirements

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation, (NERC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) worked together to develop safety guidelines regarding trimming of trees and the amount of clearance required around power lines. Depending upon the type of tree planted, there should be a clearance of 10 to 12 feet from power lines. Any tree planted closer than 10 feet should be trimmed regularly to prevent it from growing to close to the power lines and causing fires or other electrical safety hazards.

Electrical Utility Right-of-Way

The National Electric Safety Code created trimming guidelines that electrical utility companies must follow with regard to keeping trees trimmed away from power lines. In 2006, a federal oversight committee stated that electrical utility companies have the right to cut down or trim any plants or trees that are within the 12 foot right-of-way clearance and are interfering with the transmission of electrical power through the power lines.

Prune Back or Cut Down

While the utility company is not required to abide by the wishes of the homeowner, they often will confer with the property owner to determine if the trees should be pruned or cut down entirely. Many utility companies will even come out at the homeowner's request and trim or cut down trees that are near the power lines located on the homeowner's property. The Progress Energy website stated that they will deliver the mulch created from cutting or trimming trees to customers homes for free, if the trim crews are in the area where the customer requesting the mulch lives.

Safety Tips

Always check with your local electrical utility company before attempting to trim or cut down a tree that is near a power line.

If trimming the tree yourself, make sure that there is someone with you to watch the electrical lines and warn you of any danger.

Never use an aluminum or metal ladder when working near power lines.


About the Author


Katherine Bostick has been writing since 1993. She is a freelance writer and has written articles for both the "Spectator" and the "Crossties" newspapers. Bostick writes articles on educational topics, personal essays, health topics, current events and more. Bostick performs copy-editing and book-review services and produces her own local newspaper in South Florida.