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National Arbor Day Foundation Honors Massena and Its Electric Department

Tim Koranda

Andrew McMahon
Massena Electric

September 7, 2006


MASSENA —A popular New York Power Authority program that encourages the planting of trees had such an impact on the upstate Village of Massena that the National Arbor Foundation singled it out for honors.  The Foundation named Massena a “Tree City USA Community” and conferred upon its municipal utility, the Massena Electric Department, the designation “Tree Line Utility.”

Massena is one of only 60 communities nationwide that have this dual designation, the highest honor bestowed by the National Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters for promoting the planting and care of trees.

Massena’s arboreal enthusiasm began four years ago when Andrew McMahon arrived as the new superintendent of its municipal electric department.  McMahon had seen data that showed that planting trees near homes and commercial buildings would lead to cooler temperatures during the summer and less air conditioning use. 

McMahon took advantage of a Power Authority program called Tree Power that allowed municipal electric systems in the state to get a free tree for each that it purchased on its own.  Massena Electric has been buying and planting trees in profusion ever since.  This year it took delivery of 200 trees – a veritable forest.

“The Power Authority’s tree program is a win-win,” McMahon said recently.  “The trees beautify the town and the resulting shade means that we use less of the Power Authority’s limited low-cost hydropower during the summer to cool our homes. Our partnership with the Power Authority should continue to pay dividends for generations to come.”

Since the Power Authority’s tree program took root 14 years ago, its customers have planted over 37,000 maples, honey locusts and Norway spruce trees among others throughout the state.

Trees planted near homes and buildings can reduce energy use through shading and a phenomenon known as evapo-trans-piration, (when a plant actively moves and releases water vapor) by as much as six degrees Fahrenheit, according to a recent study.  That reduces summer air-conditioning costs by as much as 25 percent.

Less well known is the ability of trees to serve as windbreaks against cold and wind chill.  A study in South Dakota found that homes can benefit from strategically placed trees and shrubbery and save as much as one-third on heating bills. 

In the nation’s urban areas alone, the National Academy of Sciences estimates that there’s room to plant over 100 million additional trees.  Doing so would result in annual energy savings of 50 billion kilowatt-hours—roughly one quarter of the 200 billion kilowatt-hours consumed every year by air conditioners and heat pumps in the United States.

In addition to all that, trees help prevent erosion, protect water supplies, create habitat for wildlife, and clean the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.  “They are also beautiful,” adds McMahon.

Tim Carey, President of the New York Power Authority, is an enthusiastic booster of the Tree Power Program.  “When treated with sensitivity and care, New York’s trees will continue to provide the oxygen, shade, wood, food, and the climatic stability necessary for our survival and prosperity,” he said. “They will also play an important role in Governor Pataki’s bold ethanol initiatives in New York State, freeing us at last from our dependence on foreign oil.  Still, we must think about them as something much more than commodities to exploit, regarding them instead as living things that produce our breathable atmosphere and enhance the quality of our lives.”

About NYPA:

 ■    NYPA uses no tax money or state credit.  It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity.  ■    NYPA is a leader in promoting energy-efficiency, new energy technologies and electric transportation initiatives.  ■    It is the nation’s largest state-owned electric utility, with 18 generating facilities in various parts of the state and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines.