Duke Energy’s plan to install new power lines meets resistance from Carmel neighbors, elected officials

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Duke Energy is proposing several new power lines that have some neighbors concerned about tree removal, unsightly poles and cancer potentially caused by proximity to lines. Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard and several city councilors have already said they plan to fight the installation of the lines.

“We have notified Duke we passed an ordinance requiring all new lines to be buried,” Brainard said. “I suspect they will sue us, but it should delay it at the very least. The real problem is that privately owned monopolies don’t work. The Russian Communists proved that. If we have to have monopolies they should be owned by the ratepayers.”

Duke Energy said in a release that “residential and commercial growth in Carmel has increased the demand for electric energy,” and as a result a new 69-kV power line will feed a new 12-kV distribution substation to be built on property acquired by Duke Energy along Rohrer Road. The transmission corridor is about a half-mile long.

Carmel City Councilor Bruce Kimball said that it’s possible that a 30-foot row of trees could be removed in several locations, including along the Monon Greenway.

“Burying the utilities is important not only to protect the tree canopies but also to protect homeowners and the negative effect it will have on their homes,” Kimball said.

City Councilor Jeff Worrell said he’s concerned about losing trees along the Monon.

“That’s Carmel’s equivalent of lake-side property,” he said.

Angeline Protogere, a strategic public relations consultant for Duke Energy, said that the company held a public information open house Sept.12 to share different route options and explain the project. At the request of an area homeowner’s association, Duke Energy also met again with some residents.

“We are gathering public input for a project that’s important to maintain reliable electric service in the area,” she said. “Hamilton County is growing, with new homes and expanding businesses, and we need to improve and upgrade our electric system to keep up with that growth.”

In the summer, the City of Carmel passed an ordinance requiring new utility lines to be buried but hasn’t had to enforce that ordinance yet.

Protogere stated that ordinance might not apply here.

“The ordinance passed by the City of Carmel is based on a statute that was intended to apply to permitting for small cell telecommunications facilities and not energy utilities,” she said. “Because electric service is considered a necessity and zoning ordinances can vary from one city to the next and can interfere with the ability to provide electric service, under settled Indiana law it’s the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission that regulates utilities, not local ordinances.”

Andrea Burnett, resident of the Hunter’s Creek subdivision off of Rohrer Road, said she is just now finding out about the project and the neighborhood is concerned about several issues, including a correlation between the proximity of high voltage power lines and various cancers.

“We are very concerned about how this substation will impact our area,” she said.

Lisa Jacobson Brown, a resident of Autumn Lakes, said she’s concerned about Duke Energy possibly cutting down many mature trees that the city of Carmel and residents have planted, including many along the Monon.

Tom McHaffie, who owns a property near Rohrer Road, said he’d prefer to see lines buried because of the impact the poles would have on his property.

“We asked (Duke Energy) why they weren’t burying the lines, not knowing about the ordinance at the time, and they said because it is too expensive,” he said.

Duke Energy responded to concerns about correlations between power lines and cancer by stating, “Many studies have been performed regarding electro magnetic fields from power lines, household appliances and other devices with an electric current. You can find more information on our website at duke-energy.com/pdfs/emf_brochure.pdf.”

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