ANTWERP TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Consumers Energy is considering building a 20-mile-long power line in Van Buren County but property owners there are not happy with how it would be built.
Julia Richardson has lived all her life in Mattawan, the last eight years in her dream home off 27th Street. She says a flyer from Consumers Energy recently turned it into a nightmare.
“It sat on my counter for a couple of weeks. Then, I was about to throw it out, and noticed it was signed ‘land acquisitions,'” Richardson said.
The utility company says it plans to build a new 20-mile high-voltage distribution line in Van Buren County to “deliver more reliable energy to current customers and future growth.”
However, Richardson said the current plans show them cutting through residential properties like hers and removing any trees within 80 feet of it.
“All these trees along the front, which … gives us privacy since it’s all green (in the summertime),” Richardson pointed out. “Then it turns here, and it goes all the way back and it takes out a third of that pinewood and it keeps continuing back.”
Before the 20-mile plan, Richardson said Consumers was in talks of adding only two miles to American Electric Power’s current lines along I-94, which would save $22 million. But those fell through. Consumers explained that has a number of challenges “from wetland concerns to issues with state agencies, accessibility and existing lines from other providers.”
“This is unacceptable,” Richardson said. “If it was their home, they would be doing everything to make that deal work. It isn’t right for big businesses to profit off of small landowners when it is not necessary.”
Another property owner on 44th Street said the planned power line would go through an angle that would compromise his veteran’s memorial.
After serving in Vietnam, Jerry Labadie now cares for his daughter receiving dialysis treatment, explaining that the project would leave them no choice but to move.
He told News 8 a Consumers Energy worker had some choice words.
“(He) come to our door and said, ‘You’re going to lose your home, huh?’ That’s uncalled for. You don’t do that. You don’t say that to people, and you don’t do that. That’s just wrong,” Labadie said. “This is the United States. It’s going to stay that way. I fought for it. All my relatives fought for it. Damn it, it’s just not right.”
A representative for the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) said they are “aware of the electric line project and (are) in the process of reviewing it,” but could not comment further.
In a statement, a Consumers Energy spokesman said, in part, “We have always strived to do right by the communities we serve. This project is no different. … We hope to partner with the community, its leaders, and our customers on a solution for this project in order to continue deliver reliable energy to the region.”
But Richardson said she has yet to receive a letter from the company.
“All I received was a flyer on my doorknob,” Richardson said. “Then I started going door-to-door, informing people what was happening in their own front yard. There were numerous people that had no idea this was going on.”
Richardson said if Consumers Energy moves forward in its current state, the neighbors plan to hire an attorney to fight back.