Hendersonville Leaders offer to partner with Duke Power in shocking and upsetting move

Hendersonville’s leaders have just become some of the first local representatives in the western Carolinas to offer to work with Duke Power.  Instead of submitting comments or passing resolutions opposing Duke’s Western Carolinas Modernization Plan, the Hendersonville City Manager and City Council have offered to let Duke Power build their transmission line through the city of Hendersonville.  Instead of standing with the people they are supposed to represent, City Manager John Connet has decided to help Duke Power devastate our local communities.

The Hendersonville Lightning has quite a few revealing quotes from both Connet and City Councilman Jeff Miller:

“We would request that any easement agreement obtained by Duke Energy for this project include a provision that allows the construction of a greenway within the transmission line right of way,” City Manager John Connet wrote to Duke Energy district manager Craig DeBrew on Tuesday. “In addition, we would request that Duke Energy serve as an active partner in the construction of a greenway segment within the city of Hendersonville.”

Miller acts as if this offer to Duke Power will be more constructive in the long run, saying:

“I just got tired of everybody else saying ‘not in my backyard’ and we wanted to say if it had to be done let’s parallel, use the same right of way and add to it,” he said. “My stand on it, is if this thing has to be done let’s keep it off the ridgelines. We’ll ask them to work with us in the city to keep the damage down to a minimum and participate with us in construction of the greenway.”

While a greenway under the power plants might sound like a nice idea, Duke Power has never allowed this in the past.  Yet Connet, Miller, and the rest of the City Council felt it wise to ask for it in this case.  Duke Power corporate spokesman Tom Williams had this to say on the issue of potential greenways:

“Not that I’m aware of,” Williams said when asked whether any Duke transmission line corridor doubles as a greenway. “I’ve never seen that before. We seek to buy the easement so often other people still own the property…. We don’t want to get involved in that because it’s private property.”

Please tell your leaders, if you live in Henderson County, that you want them to join the rest of us in opposing Duke Power’s plan, not for laying out the red carpet for them.  If we are to work with Duke Power on this project, at least make them demonstrate a real need for this transmission line, instead of just accepting it and offering up our homes and mountains.

More than 800 people turn out to SC Public Hearing

THANK YOU to all who attended! Many thanks to MountainTrue for supporting us in having our voices heard! We could not have done it without every single person who took the time to show their concern. Please join us again next Thursday Sept 3rd. for a meeting in front of the North Carolina Public Utilities Staff – united we will make our public interest the priority!

 

Read the press coverage: 

Hendersonville Lightning : Overflow crowd in Landrum opposes power line

WYFF 4 Greenville Television Coverage : Tears, Anger at Packed Meeting…

Citizen-Times & Greenville Online : Power line opponents: Not here, not anywhere

GoUpstate:  South Carolina residents speak out…

Charlotte BizJournal: Anger, suspicion dominate S.C. public hearing…

Greenville Times: Power line opponents: not here, not anywere

Listen to Audio recording from the Public Hearing

 

Photo & text from Hendersonville Lightning:

An overflow crowd of more than 800 people turned out Thursday to urge South Carolina utility regulators to deny Duke Energy’s request to build a 45-mile transmission line from Campobello to the Lake Julian power plant in Arden.

“I have not had one single constituent out of thousands of constituents — I’ve got about 39,000 — I have not had one phone call in favor of this project,” said state Rep. Mike Burns. “Nobody has asked me to get behind this. In fact, the opposite is true. In fact, we have hundreds, you’ll get letters written to your office, even thousands of letters, bazillions of emails, phone calls. The heartburn level for this project has gone astronomical.”

“Not one person in South Carolina benefits from this project,” said State Rep. Doug Brannon, of Landrum. He said an annual report that Duke submitted to the South Carolina PSC in September 2014 did not even mention the Campobello transfer station and the transmission line to Lake Julian.
“This project,” he said, “has crushed real estate values for my constituents.”

Read the Hendersonville Lightning article

From BizJournal:

A common theme among the dozens of speakers was that Duke has secretly wanted the power line to enable it to sell power generated in the Carolinas to other markets, profiting at the expense of local residents.

Sally Rock of Landrum was among several who cited a notation on the deed that showed that the 199 acres Duke bought for the substation (which itself will cover just 17 acres) for $4.9 million was surveyed in September 2014. She concluded Duke knew last fall that it wanted to build the project, but hid that from the community and from the commission.

The executives were not the only familiar faces at the hearing. a frequent critic of Duke and a well-known member of the SELC team that has been fighting the utility over coal-ash issues for years, was in the crowd, too.

He spoke, however, as a resident of the area, not as a representative for the law center.

And he was among those who warned about Duke’s motives and tactics. In his presentation, he argued that the company “hopes to divide and conquer” when it announces the final proposed route in October.

“Duke hopes that two-thirds of us will go away” once the route is announced, Holleman said. “But if it is wrong to do this to all of us, it is wrong to do it to any of us.”

Read the article on Charlotte BizJournal


Notes on Statements from Elected Representatives – please note these are not official quotes:

Senator Corbin
Senator Corbin was the first to speak. He stated on the official record that he is not convinced the project is needed, he does not believe the project will benefit South Carolinians or the people he serves, and said “If Duke can convince the commission this project is necessary, they must stay on existing power lines.”
 
Representative Burns
Representative Burns took the floor next. He said that he had not heard from one single constituent that is in favor of this project. He mentioned Route 4, where his constituents live, and the Greenville Watershed and Boy Scout Camp in that area. He said (off-record) that it is a “preposterous route” and that he is “violently opposed to violating that green space.”  He said there is “No value for us in Greenville County” and that all it will do is lessen property values and deface the pristine green space. He also asked that Duke stay on existing right of ways.
 
Representative Doug Brannon District 38 
SC Representative from District 38 spoke. He stated that 2 of the proposed routes go through his district, and the substation is in his district. He said that the routes affect his house, as well as his mother’s house. He mentioned the fact that only one person thus far has benefitted from the project, and that is the guy that Duke bought the land from. He mentioned the IRP and questioned why Duke is using 3 year old maps, but are claiming they did not know about the project months before it was announced. He said he as recieved 7,000 letters and emails, and read part of one to the group about a constituent who owns 16.8 acres, 10.51 of which would be taken by Duke. He ended by saying “…there is no benefit for this project in South Carolina. It must be stopped.”

Greenville County Councilman Joe Dill
Greenville County Councilman informed the Comissioners that he and the Greenville County Council voted unanimously on 18th day of August to pass a resolution to Greenville County, urging the council to consider alternatives and explore the possibility of using existing lines. He stated he hopes that Duke “would never even bring this to y’all [the commission].”

 

Everyone please share this with your neighbors, and join us next Thursday Sept 3rd. for a meeting in front of the North Carolina Public Utilities Staff – click for more info – we appreciate your time and support!

 

Report on viability of Underground Lines published by Edneyville Community

Edneyville Community has published a paper reviewing underground options for the transmission line.

Read the report: High Voltage Transmissions Lines in Henderson County: Can They be Put Underground?

From Hendersonville Lightning:

The group decided to independently study the cost and viability of running underground lines, she said. “There’s just so much misinformation out there,” she said.

Although Duke contended it had not run underground lines, she cited an October 2013 article “by two of Duke’s senior engineers” in the trade journal Transmission and Distribution World that describes an underground transmission line installation that Duke completed that year. “This line, the Barnard Creek-Town Creek 230-kV underground line, is the same voltage as the line now proposed to be run overhead through Henderson County,” the report said.

Read more in the Hendersonville Lightning

8/26/2015 UPDATE:

Just this month (8/18/2015) it was announced that Northern Pass officials unveiled a new project route Tuesday that buries an additional 52 miles of the 192 mile transmission line under state roadways. As reported in the Concord Monitor[1] (NH):

The company also announced a multimillion-dollar fund to invest in communities that host the project and a plan to direct a portion of the line’s hydropower to New Hampshire consumers.

But in order to bury more of the 192-mile line that would run from Pittsburg to Deerfield, the company had to scale back the size of the project from 1,200 megawatts to 1,000 – still enough to power 1 million homes.

Even though Northern Pass officials had previously said that burying more of the electric transmission line would send costs skyrocketing, a top Eversource Energy executive said Tuesday the project is still estimated to cost $1.4 billion.

Furthermore, the article stated that “Some had complained the project wouldn’t directly benefit New Hampshire, and instead feed power-hungry states to its south.”

[1] http://www.concordmonitor.com/news/18231021-95/northern-pass-proposes-52-more-miles-of-buried-lines-for-project

U.S. Congressman Mark Meadows answers questions on Duke Power issue

At a town hall meeting on August 28 at Blue Ridge Community College, US Congressman Mark Meadows – who represents the 11th Congressional District in the US House – took questions on Duke Power’s plans for the western Carolinas.  Meadows encouraged residents to go to next week’s meeting with the NC Utilities Commission, and said residents should be armed with evidence their property values would go down. Quoted in the Hendersonville Lightning, Meadows said:

“What they will listen to is less emotion and more facts, in terms of property values, not only as it’s currently used but the highest and best use.”

Meadows also said that Duke Power has generally been a “good corporate citizen,” which after their recent issues with coal ash spilling into public waterways, seems to be a bit of a stretch.  It’s hard for the people of North Carolina to have any faith in Duke Power doing what is best for residents and local communities when they have a long history of doing whatever they can get away with – consequences be damned – in their pursuit of profit.

Meadows did say that he has called Duke Power representatives, and will continue to do so.  He also hopes that existing transmission lanes can be used for any new lines, but overall, he said that this is a state issue – he’s unlikely to be able to have much of an impact or, it seems, to make it a major priority.

Read the article in the Times-News

Read the article in Hendersonville Lightning

 

Fight to Protect our Land is gaining momentum!

The Hendersonville Times-News recently ran a story about our fight against Duke Power and our ability to come together as a unified voice in the form of the Carolina Land Coalition.  MountainTrue’s own Mark Stierwalt echoed this theme in his quote to the newspaper:

One of the goals of the group, said Mark Stierwalt of MountainTrue, is to maintain a unified community voice once the preferred route is chosen, since many of the community groups formed among specific neighborhoods in opposition to specific segments.

We’re gaining momentum, and with it, we can continue putting pressure on Duke Power to find an alternative to their “modernization” plans.

Not in my backyard, not in your backyard, not in OUR backyard!

U.S. Congressman Patrick McHenry stands against Duke Power

National politicians have begun to take not of our fight here in Western North Carolina.  Representative Patrick McHenry of the 10th Congressional District – which includes Polk and parts of Buncombe County – has taken a stand against Duke Power. In a statement released today, Rep. McHenry urges Duke Power to “pursue an alternative which does not threaten Polk County’s continued growth.” 

You can Rep. McHenry’s statement in its entirety on his website here.

In a media release announcing the letter, he had additional concerns about Duke Power’s project.  Courtesy of the Tryon Daily Bulletin:

“When I first learned of Duke Energy’s proposed route through Polk County I had significant concerns about what negative impacts these transmission lines could have on the County and its economy. Polk County has seen tremendous investment and growth in recent years, with much of this growth predicated on the area’s aesthetics and natural beauty. The booming equestrian industry is leading to increased tourism and residential development, but Duke’s proposed transmission lines could threaten both.

“After spending last Monday night speaking with Polk County residents at my town hall meeting in Columbus, my concerns were greatly amplified. Resident after resident made clear the serious threat these lines would pose to their community and its well-being. With their sincere worries in mind, I today sent a letter to Duke Energy expressing my grave concerns about the proposed Polk County route and strongly urging them to pursue an alternative which does not threaten Polk County’s continued growth.”

We must continue bringing this issue to the attention of our political representatives, both local and national.  The more people on our side, the better.

 

Henderson County Tourism and Development Authority expresses “strong concerns” with Duke plans

The Henderson County Tourism and Development Authority has publicly expressed their concerns with Duke Power’s plans to install miles and miles of new transmission lines across Henderson County.  In a letter published with the Hendersonville Times-News, HCTDA Chairman David Nicholson enumerated many issues the group has with Duke Power’s plans.  In it, Nicholson expresses just how negatively tourism may be affected by the proposed plans, as well as establishing how vital tourism is to Henderson County’s economy:

Henderson County TDA hired a consultant to conduct a tourism research study several years ago and it revealed that visitors’ No. 1 reason for coming to Hendersonville is to enjoy the unspoiled scenic mountain views and outdoor recreational activities in the area’s mountains, forests, creeks and rivers. Camps are also make a huge positive impact on the economy.

The group also gathered data that shows just how important tourism is to Henderson County’s vibrant economy.  On the Times-News site, Nicholson wrote:

• Over 2100 jobs are attributed to the tourism industry in our county.

• $20.9 million in state and local tax receipts are due to tourism in our county.

• Tourism taxes create $191.16 in property tax savings on average for each county resident.

• Our Visitor Center Guest Book contains signatures by visitors to our beautiful county from at least 45 states and 22 countries since January 2015.

• Henderson County is 70th in size of all 100 counties in North Carolina, but we are 15th in the amount of money expended by tourists while in our county.

Please read all of Mr. Nicholson’s letter at the Blue Ridge Now website – it shows just how devastating Duke’s lines will be, both by destroying the natural beauty and wonder of our county, as well as crippling our local economy.

Saluda community meeting on Duke Power problem draws massive crowd

Saluda’s residents are deeply troubled by Duke Power’s plans, and they are not afraid to show it.

At a meeting today at the Saluda Fire Department, approximately 700 people – a crowd the size of about half of the population of the whole town – attended presentations to education local residents about Duke’s Western Carolinas Modernization Project.

Event coordinator Cathy Jackson told the Tryon Daily Bulletin that this was the “biggest turnout for anything held in Saluda.”

Presenters focused on Duke’s purported reasoning for the project, as well as helping people without Internet access to submit comments.  Mark Stierwalt, a MountainTrue respresentative, also spoke, emphasizing the need for a united voice, instead of the divisive approach that saying “not in my backyard” represents.  Again from the Tryon Daily Bulletin:

 “With a collective voice we are much louder, we’re all on the same team,” said Stierwalt. “They want to divide and conquer.”  Stierwalt fears that the passion to fight the project as a whole will be lost once the official line is announced. “Even if they choose a line that isn’t in your backyard, you need to continue to fight like it is,” said Stierwalt. “This is our community.”

Attendees of the meeting echoed this collective approach.  Kate Bond, a resident of Lake Adger, said:

 “It’s not a question of not in my backyard, it’s a question of not in my Blue Ridge Mountains,” said Lake Adger resident Kate Bond. “They’re not just taking property, they’re also taking views.”

Support keeps growing and growing, so stand strong will all of those in our community, and we truly can make a difference and win this fight!

 

What isn’t Duke Power telling us?

In a new editorial written by David Weintraub of the Center for Cultural Preservation for Blue Ridge Now, Weintraub asks if Duke Power why Duke Power has yet to provide the public with evidence backing up their rationale for pushing the Western Carolinas Modernization Project.

As we know, Duke Power has stated that this project is needed because of growing energy demands in our area.  Weintraub questions the validity of this position, writing:

Duke claims that steady population growth in the region will require it to build a new gas-fired power plant that will generate 650 megawatts of electricity. However, the reality is that U.S. electricity usage peaked in 2007 and has been declining ever since due to both the economy and energy efficiency.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook report, American energy consumption is expected to grow at a modest rate, averaging 0.3 percent a year through 2040, well within the capacity of Duke’s current energy infrastructure. Many experts think even this estimate is too high.

Perhaps a bit controversially, Weintraub also questions if Duke Power is simply putting the public good at risk for the sake of short-term profits for shareholders.  Is natural gas really a good long-term solution to our area’s energy needs, or is it simply what will bring Duke Power the largest possible profits over the next couple years?

So if all this is true, why the potentially intrusive, disruptive plans to build this new power infrastructure? What Duke isn’t saying is that natural gas has become so cheap that converting to it will save Duke billions.

Duke’s switch to natural gas isn’t because it suddenly became a tree hugger. Gas is currently artificially cheap, and so the present economic advantage is wagging the dog. But using fracked gas as a long-term strategy is tenuous at best.

Fracking requires a tremendous amount of capital outlay and drilling because there are far fewer sweet spots in hydraulic fracturing than in conventional drilling, and depletion rates are as high as 85 percent after the first year of drilling. There is a growing number of experts who believe fracking will be financially unfeasible in five years or fewer.

Should Duke be building 45 miles of transmission lines and a new power plant just so shareholders can get a short-term financial gain?

While some will certainly diagree with Weintraub’s stance against fracking, natural gas, and fossil fuel use, concerned citizens should still be asking the same questions he is.  Namely, are our energy needs really expanding as much as Duke Power says they are?  If so, can Duke Power show us how they reached these figures?  Are these changes going to benefit the long-term economic health and energy infrastructure of our area?  Or will we simply have to go through another “Modernization” project in a decade, or even less time?

Duke Power still needs to give us more answers, and until they properly justify the need and rationality behind this project, local citizens will continue to take a stand.

Local representatives offering little help to fight Duke Power

Local representatives of our mountain communities are finding that they have little power in the growing fight against Duke Power and their controversial Western Carolina Modernization Project.  The Henderson County Commissioners feel like they have little ammunition to use against Duke Power, and even influential state politicians like State Senator Tom Apodoca and Representative Chuck McGrady have said they will be able to have little impact in this effort.  From the Hendersonville Lightning: 

“I haven’t seen anything like this since the building height fight,” Apodaca said, referring to a battle that resulted in a city referendum defeating a proposed high-rise condo development in downtown Hendersonville.

Like McGrady and state Rep. Chris Whitmire, Apodaca said he’s heard plenty about the power line.

“I’ve been in touch with Duke six times,” he said Monday. “We’re working on it. Our attorneys are working on it. And the sad news is we’re coming up empty.”

However, this article does offer some new information about what other reasons Duke Power might have for building their proposed new lines.  Apparently, a major expansion of a “manufacturing plant” is coming soon in the western Carolinas.  This expansion of the energy infrastructure is vital to this.  Tom Apodaca commented on this, saying:

A big manufacturing plant expansion “is depending on the plant for electricity,” he said. “We’ve been involved with this. The plant’s already here. Matter of fact they’ve asked for a letter from me” ensuring the new capacity will come.

With possibly little help coming from local legislatures, it’s vitally important that people continue to organize and work together to give our region a strong and unified voice.  The Carolina Land Coalition believes we can help develop and empower this voice, so stand with us against Duke Power!