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River Town Chronicles: The Gateway: ICC’s electrifying David and Goliath story

Published: Thursday, July 3, 2014 10:48 p.m. CDT

Today, July 4, 2014, is Independence Day, but John Tomasiewicz and his neighbors remind me of under-funded, out-manned minutemen in the midst of battling King George III’s redcoats.

“We moved into Toll Brothers Bowes Creek Active Adult community in Elgin seven years ago and love it,” Tomasiewicz told me on the phone. The upscale, senior (55 and older) residential development and golf club “was a dream come true. I could golf, with my daughter and granddaughter living 15 minutes away.”

Today, Tomasiewicz is fighting to retain his property value and beautifully scenic front yard view. If Commonwealth Edison implements its Grand Prairie Gateway Project, out his front door, Tomasiewicz will face, not far away, the equivalent of a monstrous Optimus Prime.

“Last summer, for the first time, ComEd revealed their intentions to erect 345kV high-power tower transmission lines and 165-foot-high towers through Bowes Creek,” Tomasiewicz explained. “My neighbors formed the BCAA-Gateway Task Force/Legal Fund to collect money for legal fees. Imagine having to spend $125,000 in six months fighting ComEd’s attorneys just to voice your opposition. We’re running dry.”

I contacted ComEd, whose spokesman, David O’Dowd, emailed that the new line would “ ... relieve transmission system congestion, which currently is resulting in increased costs to customers … provide a large pathway for cheaper energy ... and … displace older, less-efficient coal based generation ... .” O’Dowd also forwarded information from the World Health Organization that concluded: “ … current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields.”

“This story isn’t about transmission lines,” Tomasiewicz insisted. “The real story is about farmers, ranchers, first home buyers and senior citizens on fixed incomes having to spend incredible amounts of money on lawyers.”

He’s talking about legal representation to address the Illinois Commerce Commission, the public utility commission for the state, which is reviewing ComEd’s proposed route for the power lines.

“Most people don’t know that an ICC hearing is a court proceeding,” Tomasiewicz continued. “... It’s a David and Goliath story. With seemingly unlimited funds, ComEd can produce expert testimony that might ring true to ICC, leading to rulings against the little guy. If we don’t spend tens of thousands on legal fees, it’ll be too late to stop the ComEd bulldozer from clanking down our street.”

BCAA wants to persuade ComEd to install its cables underground. The reasons:

• To avoid destroying the visual aesthetics of their front and back yards.

• To avoid plummeting property values.

• To avoid the possibility of moderate and serious health issues.

“In my opinion, the ICC is a rubber stamp for ComEd,” Tomasiewicz said. “Resolutions were passed by Elgin, South Elgin and Kane County, and ComEd ignored each resolution and Elgin’s building codes.”

“We need a hero,” Tomasiewicz concluded, “or lots of them.” To support the BCAA’s efforts, email johhnytee3@att.net.

Who knows? That clanking bulldozer may be coming down your street.

• Rick Holinger has lived in the Fox Valley since 1979. He teaches high school in Aurora, and he founded and facilitates two local writers groups. Degrees include a Ph.D. in creative writing. Contact him at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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