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Updated December 15, 2009, 10:01 pm

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Trees and Power Lines

For decades, trees and power lines have shared the same space.

Unfortunately, trees that grow near power lines can be dangerous and cause power outages. Trees are involved in approximately 30 percent of all power outages.

To prevent dangerous situations, Consumers Energy trims and removes trees on a regular, rotating schedule, clearing branches away from power lines and brush away from rights-of-way. Sometimes this includes the complete removal of a tree that is too close to a power line. Occasionally, we have to remove a dead or dying tree, or one in danger of falling because of a shallow root system. Our purpose is to ensure electric reliability and safety.

That's why we follow guidelines set by the Tree Care Industry Association, a professional trade group. Our foresters are members of the Utility Arborists Association and the Michigan Forestry and Parks Association, which are chapters of the International Society of Arboriculture, and the Society of American Foresters. Additionally, the primary methods used are recommended by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

To learn more about our line-clearing efforts to provide safe, reliable electric service, please view our brochure  Share the Space .

Tree diagram showing proper planting

Trees And Safety

  • If a tree branch breaks off and lands on an electric line, causing a dangerous situation, call us immediately at 1-800-477-5050. Do not touch the branch or wire
  • Don't cut down trees or branches near power lines
  • Stay clear of power lines when removing any object caught in a tree
  • Never let your ladder touch a power line
  • Power lines are not insulated. If you touch a power line, you will be severely injured or killed. Always assume a power line is energized and dangerous.
  • Make sure children do not climb trees that are anywhere near overhead power lines.
  • Before you plant a tree, look up to see if it will grow too close to overhead lines as it matures.
  •  Three working days before planting  or doing other digging projects, always call 811 toll-free before you dig. You also can continue to reach MISS DIG at (800) 482-7171. MISS DIG will mark all utility lines so you can locate them and work safely. This service is free.

Planting Smart

No trees should be planted near high-voltage transmission lines. However, many trees are attractive additions to your yard and, under normal conditions, will not grow tall enough to interfere with distribution power lines. Some of these are:

  • Trident, Amur, Paperback and Tartarian Maple
  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Crabapple
  • Hawthorne
  • Bristlecone Pine
  • Honeysuckle
  • Staghorn and Smooth Sumac
  • Common Juniper
  • Rose Acacia

On the other hand, avoid planting tall-growing trees like these near or under power lines:

  • Silver Maple
  • Norway Maple
  • Oak
  • Colorado Blue Spruce
  • White Spruce
  • Most Pines

Vegetation Management Methods 

Consumers Energy employs various vegetation management methods. In addition to tree trimming crews, which is the most common method, Consumers Energy uses several types of large equipment and herbicides to control vegetation near electric lines.

Tree Trimming Crews

Needed tree work is identified by a forestry planner, a Consumers Energy employee. Consumers Energy then contracts line-clearing projects to several contractors who use two- or three-person crews. When a crew arrives at a property, they are required to follow Consumers Energy specifications when performing their work. In yards, and other maintained areas, they usually chip all brush debris. Larger wood from the line clearing will be cut into manageable pieces and left for landowner use. In areas that are not maintained, the brush will be piled in windrows along the power line right-of-way creating good habitat for animals and helping to suppress future tree growth. When trees are removed, stumps are left and cut as close to the ground as possible.

Heavy Equipment Use

The most commonly used heavy equipment is called a Hydro-axe or “brush hog.” This machine is usually used in non-maintained areas near higher voltage lines, but will be employed where necessary.

Herbicide Use

Consumers Energy forestry professionals and its contractors are trained and certified in the use of herbicides. Herbicides are used to maintain cleared rights-of-way and to treat the stumps of removed trees to prevent re-sprouting. Additionally, herbicides are used in areas with heavy brush to kill the vegetation, but leave it standing to create animal habitat and suppress future tree growth.

Consumers Energy uses herbicides that bind quickly and tightly to surrounding soil. We notify local residents through newspaper ads and attempt additional notification by contact with a forestry planner or contract employee if herbicides will be used on a resident's property.

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What to Expect

If you have received notice, either mailed or a door hanger, or both, and have trees on your property near electric lines it is likely the trees will be trimmed or removed. To clearly understand the work intended for your property, please call the number on the letter or door card you received.

Consumers Energy clears to industry-accepted standards depending on the voltage of electric line. In some situations, Consumers energy will remove all trees within its defined right-of-way.

Here are the minimum clearances necessary to minimize tree-related outages. Sometimes it is necessary to obtain greater clearances than the amount listed below.


Electric Line Type Voltage Minimum Clearance
Distribution 4,800 to 14,400

10 feet from wire

15 feet either side of pole in undeveloped or un maintained areas

Transmission 46,000

15 feet from wire in yards and other maintained areas

40 feet either side of pole in undeveloped or unmaintained areas

Transmission 138,000

20 feet from wire in yard and other maintained areas

45 to 60 feet either side of pole or tower depending on construction style in undeveloped or unmaintained areas

Transmission     345,000 75 feet either side of structure

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