AKRON, Ohio, April 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- For the fifteenth consecutive year, FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE), on behalf of its 10 utility companies, has been recognized as a Tree Line USA utility by the National Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters. The award recognizes investor-owned and public utility companies – electric, gas and water – that promote the dual goals of dependable utility service and abundant, healthy trees along America's streets and highways. Award-winning companies demonstrate excellence in tree care, training and public education. "Because tree contacts typically are one of the biggest causes of customer power outages, our employees and contractors work hard to strike a balance between ensuring safe and reliable electric service while maintaining the natural beauty in the communities we serve," said Steven E. Strah, vice president, Distribution Support, FirstEnergy. "Our tree-care program combines the best practices of certified arborists and foresters to keep vegetation away from power lines and other electric equipment, which helps reduce the number and severity of service interruptions our customers experience." "Trees are a critical part of urban landscapes all across the United States," said John Rosenow, founder and chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. "Service providers like FirstEnergy utilities show that taking care of urban trees is good for business, for customers and for the community." To achieve the Tree Line USA designation, companies must meet five program standards: follow industry criteria for quality tree care; provide annual training for employees in best tree-care practices; sponsor tree-planting and public education programs on appropriate plantings; maintain a tree-based energy conservation program; and participate in Arbor Day events. In addition to enhancing service reliability and natural beauty, FirstEnergy's investment in vegetation management programs also is designed to help ensure the public safety and the safety of utility line crews, especially during storms and other hazardous conditions.