PPL Electric Utilities is allocating more than $45 million this year in a stepped-up effort to help keep trees and other vegetation from affecting its power lines and contributing to power outages.

More than 8,600 miles of the utility's power lines will be part of vegetation management efforts in 2012, more than the distance from New York to Hong Kong. PPL Electric Utilities owns and maintains nearly 50,000 miles of power lines and vegetation management efforts are conducted on a rotating basis to ensure the whole system is regularly patrolled and maintained.

The planned expenditure for 2012 is up about $12 million over last year.

The importance of vegetation management was highlighted this past October, when outages from a Halloween weekend snowstorm affected about 388,000 customers. Many of those outages were due to leaf-laden trees and branches toppled by heavy, wet snow.

"The effects of that snowstorm are a vivid example of the need for this work," said Gregory N. Dudkin, senior vice president of Operations for the utility. "We're adding to an already comprehensive vegetation management effort."

Vegetation control along power lines is just one aspect of a system maintenance program for lines, substations and associated equipment.

"All this work is crucial to ongoing efforts to maintain the safety and reliability of electric service for our customers," Dudkin said. "Both federal and state regulators hold electric utilities to high standards for reliability. Good, sound vegetation management practices help us meet those expectations."

The utility's vegetation management program uses industry best practices to help keep power lines free from hazards and maintain safe and reliable service for customers. The program routinely consults with customers about tree work, removes hazard trees and educates the public about proper planting in power line areas.