Duke Energy tree chopping draws ire

GREEN TOWNSHIP, OHIO - Green Township homeowners say their green space and their property is being destroyed by Duke Energy.

Homeowners accuse Duke of clear-cutting their trees and leaving the mess for them to clean up.

Duke says after a blackout in 2003 that left millions in the dark, the federal government put rules in place for power companies so that would never happen again.

But, homeowners say Duke can probably find a way to comply with federal rules without destroying their property.

The Wegman family enjoys 11 acres of land with beautiful trees. Many of their spruces and pears now have ribbons tied around them. They're marked for Duke Energy to cut them down.

"This is my screen to the road," said Mark Wegman, homeowner. "This blocks all the road noise. There's a pretty steep embankment there. This vegetation is all maintaining the hillside, too."

This is what the Wegmans want to avoid. April Bethel says Duke chopped down about eight of her trees, and left the stumps and wood for her to clean up.

"I feel like my property value has gone down quite a bit," said April Bethel, homeowner. "Before I couldn't see the towers, now you walk out and they're right in your face."

Duke says all power companies have to follow federal rules to keep vegetation from interfering with bulk transmission lines. The rules were put in place after an outage in the northeast left millions in the dark.

"Approximately 240,000 customers can be served by one of these bulk transmission lines," said Kathy Meinke, Duke Energy. "We need to work to ensure that those lines do not come into contact with any type of vegetation."

Duke says it designed the plan for keeping vegetation away from the lines, but residents want to know why Duke can't modify that plan and simply top-cut the trees periodically, instead of clear-cutting.

"It's a scorched earth policy that they have now, that they don't ever want to come back," said Wegman.

"If I could, I wouldn't even use their energy anymore, I'm so mad," said Bethel.

Duke says it has been working with residents to balance their interest as property owners with protecting the power lines. The company took names of concerned homeowners Monday night at a meeting. Duke will send out representatives to their homes to explain the policy and listen to concerns.

Green Township trustees support homeowners. They say there will be more discussions on Duke's policy with residents.



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