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“These trees are our everything” says Kzoo resident about removal of 700 trees

Kalamazoo mom concerned about her health after she learns of a proposal to remove 700 trees as part of paper mill's $600M expansion
Posted at 8:20 PM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-14 21:42:16-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — In late July Brandi Crawford-Johnson filed a lawsuitagainst Graphic Packaging International, stating that an odor coming from their paper mill was a “nuisance.”

She told FOX 17 in a previous interview that the odor was so bad it caused her asthma to flare up and her eyes to burn. So she bought air purifiers and put them in every room in her house, including her son's.

“I’ve also had an EPA contact reach out to me last week and she said she wants to check in every two weeks to see what’s going on,” Crawford-Johnson said. “But I told her I feel like the EPA should get down there and shut them down ’til they fix this toxic gas leak and put some pollution prevention measures into place.”

Monday morning, she learned that a proposal was being discussed and approved to remove 700 trees from along the Kalamazoo River near Mosel Avenue, which is close to GPI. Under the proposal, Consumers Energy would remove the trees and put up new power lines as a part of the paper mill's $600,00,000 expansion.

Crawford-Johnson became immediately concerned. She feared it may make her health problems worse.

“These trees are our everything,” Crawford-Johnson said. “They help our air, our water, our health and we need to be able to breathe clean air.”

Crawford-Johnson believes the trees help to combat the odor. Removing them would destroy the environment and wildlife, she said.

So she reached out to the tree committee with the city and to Consumers Energy with her concerns.

“Why would you cut down 700 trees,” she said. “You see the West Coast burning. You see all these hurricanes, I mean, this is real. Climate change is real. We do not need 700 trees taken down.”

FOX 17 reached out to Consumers Energy, GPI and the tree committee and they released a joint statement saying:

“Consumers Energy, the City of Kalamazoo and Graphic Packaging International have worked very closely to find the best design for reliable energy service for Graphic Packaging International’s planned $600 million expansion. This plan necessitates easements from the City of Kalamazoo in addition to removing trees of various sizes on city-owned industrial property to create a high voltage electrical upgrade for Graphic Packaging. The economic impact of the mill expansion is estimated to be $800 million annually, including 1,000 construction jobs and 25 additional jobs at the mill.

Both Consumers Energy and Graphic Packaging are committed to sustainability.”

  • “As part of its Clean Energy Plan, Consumers Energy announced last year our commitment to plant 2,500 trees at the Fulton State Game Area in Kalamazoo County.”

  • “As part of its annual TICCIT (Trees into Cartons, Cartons into Trees) community outreach plan with local school districts, in 2019 Graphic Packaging donated approximately 3,000 tree saplings for Kalamazoo and Battle Creek area students to plant. This program has been held every year since 2008.”

Crawford-Johnson said she hopes safety measures are put in place before anything is approved.

“I just want the City of Kalamazoo to wake up. Stop allowing this polluter to run our city,” she said. “Stop allowing Graphic Packaging International to make all the rules when it comes to our health and our environment.”