Residents Trying To Get In Last Word Over Com-Ed Plan

May 7, 2014

The Hope Reins farm in Kane County
Credit Mike Moen/WNIJ

State regulators are still collecting comments before they decide on a proposed transmission line for northern Illinois. As the decision draws closer, many residents continue to sound off over the project being pushed by Com-Ed.

This summer, the Illinois Commerce Commission is expected to rule on a plan by Com-Ed to install overhead power lines that would cover a 60-mile stretch. Those 60 miles would run across parts of Ogle, DeKalb, Kane and DuPage counties.

After conducting a handful of public hearings last year, the utility submitted plans over the winter to the ICC. Those plans include a preferred route, along with an alternative route. Com-Ed says the lines are needed to reduce congestion along the power grid. It also says the move would result in savings for customers.

Those arguments are not enough to satisfy residents in some communities along the proposed routes. Debbie Hirschberg runs an equine-therapy ranch in western Kane County. She fears that the lines would run too close to their operation, which specializes in helping kids with autism. That has Hirschberg worried about potential health-risks.

"Causation is almost impossible to prove. But for me, as a therapist, it would seem unethical to provide therapy [under this setting]," Hirschberg said.

Hirschberg says if plans to run the lines near their property are approved, they would have to consider shutting down their current location.

Meanwhile, in more populated areas like Elgin, municipal and education officials are speaking out. Elgin School District spokesman Patrick Mogge says they're nervous about the possibility of the lines being set up near an elementary school.

"It has an open field nearby and is used by many community groups," Mogge said.

At a recent hearing hosted by the ICC, opponents suggested burying the lines underneath the ground. But a spokesman for Com-Ed says they researched that idea, deciding that it would be too costly. Company officials say state law requires them to go with the low-cost option, which would be overhead lines.