United front is getting attention

From BlueRidgeNow.com

Meanwhile, community opposition groups that sprung up countywide have banded together with regional environmental group MountainTrue to form the Carolina Land Coalition. Their goal: “oppose all transmission line routes under consideration, the scale of the new natural gas plant and the associated substation.”

One of the coalition’s goals is to maintain a unified voice once the preferred route is chosen. That will be a challenge as residents of other areas will tend be less alarmed once they find the line is not planned in their backyards, despite overall concerns.

We support Duke’s plans to close the coal-fired power plant that has been polluting the region’s air and water for decades. The key to stopping the line, if there is one, lies in an independent review of the numbers Duke will use to justify it as part of the overall projects. Residents are on the right track to demand such a review with a united voice.

 

 

Protest Planned on September 12th in Mills River at Valley Ag

MILLS RIVER, NC – On Saturday, September 12, 2015, from 3pm to 7pm, a protest will be held on the property of the Valley Ag store located on Highway 280 in Mills River.

Coordinators of the Mills River Homeowners Association Coalition are encouraging all area residents to join in together for the protest against proposed Duke Energy power line expansion.

“This is everyone’s fight and we encourage all homeowners and business owners to join this protest on September 12,” says Greg Van Voorhis, president of the Mill Ridge Homeowners Association. “We cannot stop vocalizing our opposition to these pending plans to bring power lines through western North Carolina. Duke Energy needs to continually hear how concerned we are about this situation.”

All area residents are encouraged to sign up and join the protest. To participate, and for more information, email Dukeprotest@gmail.com.

“We know that dozens of residents from the High Vista, Cummings Cove, Mills Pointe, Willow Creek Farms and Mill Ridge communities will be participating in this protest,” says Van Voorhis. “More voices means Duke Energy can’t ignore us. That’s why we’re encouraging all Henderson County residents to join in this protest.”

Mills River and other Henderson County communities fall into proposed routes of the Duke Energy Foothills Project. The area contains pristine waterways, farm lands, mountainous trails and other areas that would be negatively impacted by the construction of power lines.

Email dukeprotest@gmail.com for details. We hope to see you there!

Ties to Duke Energy Abound in NC Utilities Commission Appointees

Published June 2013

An ongoing point of concern is how “cozy” the NC Utilities Commission seems to be with Duke Energy.

From Indy Weekly:

“[Governor McCrory] has not made any sort of justification for why he believes his obvious conflict of interest should not require any recusal,” Warren says. “It’s pretty obvious to most observers that he is conflicted.”

. . .

“It’s pretty clear to us that Duke [Energy] vetted these people. And that Duke still has far too much influence over various aspects of our state government.”

Write your representatives and the public staff to be sure no conflict of interest is keeping these deals behind closed doors. Utilities should be driven the public good, NOT by profit!

Another regulator cozy with Duke Energy

Another regulator cozy with Duke Energy – Jason Miczek/Greenpeace
March 20, 2014

One word has been used repeatedly to describe the relationship between Duke Energy and its environmental regulatorsin the wake of its coal ash spill last month: cozy.

Plenty of evidence exists to suggest that Duke and its utility regulators are pretty cozy too. The cozy description has largely centered around a federal criminal investigation into Duke and North Carolinas Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Employees from Duke and DENR received subpoenas after an Associated Press article suggested that DENR had suppressed non-profit lawsuits against Dukes coal ash pollution.

Now the head of the North Carolina Utility Commission (NCUC), Ed Finley, has been subpoenaed regarding his oversight of Dukes coal ash. The development highlights NCUCs own conflicts of interest regarding Duke, and calls into question NCUCs objectivity toward two major upcoming decisions: whether Duke will get away with passing the cost of it coal ash dumps onto customers, and whether Duke Energy will get away with its plan to stop fair compensation for rooftop solar providers.

Disturbingly cozy associations
In many ways, NCUCs commissioner make-up reads like a utility all-star team. Four of its 7 commissions, including Chairman Ed Finley, came to the NCUC with direct professional ties to the utility industry. The head of Public Staff, hired to protect customer interests before the NCUC, also has ties to the sector. The same four NCUC commissioners were either appointed or reappointed by Gov. McCrory, a former Duke Energy employee of 28 years whose financial ties to the company have faced renewed suspicion in the wake of the coal ash spill. McCrory is also credited with pushing DENR away from environmental protection and toward customer service for businesses.

A quick rundown of the people in question:

EdFinley, Chairman

– Appointed in 2007. Reappointed by Gov. McCrory in 2013.

– Worked 27 years and was a partner at Hunton & Williams, where he represented numerous utilities. Hunton & Williams clients included Duke up until Finley became NCUC chairman. While Finley was chair, Hunton & Williams represented Progress Energy as the company merged with Duke.

– Acknowledging his own ties to the utility industry, Finley wrote to the State Ethics Commission: For several former clients, it will be necessary to refrain from participating in cases in which they are parties for a nite period of time.

Jerry Dockham, Commissioner

– Appointed by McCrory in 2013. Previously a state legislator of 23 years.

– As a legislator, Dockham was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a pro-industry lobby group of which Duke was a member as recently as 2013. ALEC has approved model legislationattacking homeowners whose solar panels contribute electricity back to the grid.

James Patterson, Commissioner

– Appointed by McCrory in 2013. Previously a public relations professional and founder of Webb Patterson (later Patterson Partners).

– Webb Patterson represented a subsidiary of Progress Energy, Carolina Power & Light, from 2004 to 2009.

– Patterson was president of B&C Associates, which lists Duke as a client.

Don Bailey, Commissioner

– Appointed by McCrory in 2013.

– Previously worked as an engineer at ATI Allvac. The companys products include heavy equipment for utilities.

Chris Ayers, Executive Director of Public Staff

– Worked as lawyer for Poyner Spruill, representing utilities before NCUC. According to Poyner Spruills website: The utilities practice group has signicant experience before the North Carolina Utilities Commission and other administrative agencies. Our attorneys maintain productive working relationships with utilities regulators in an effort to minimize adversarial proceedings and obtain positive client outcome while minimizing litigation expense.

– Was flagged by NC state ethics commission: “[Ayers] has the potential for a conict of interest and should exercise appropriate caution in the performance of his public duties should Poyner & Spruill or his clients come before him for ofcial action.

The background of the NCUC could have been even more slanted toward utilities. Last year, Republican state legislators attempted to pass a bill that would have allowed McCrory to replace the entire NCUC with his own appointees. One sponsor stated that the bill would allow for appointees who are more like-minded and willing to carry out the philosophy of the new administration. Luckily, the bill failed.

The collapsed retention pond and the plume of coal ash flowing into the Dan River.

The collapsed retention pond and the plume of coal ash flowing into the Dan River.

Big decisions and the public interest
Even before its current cast of commissioners, the NCUC has developed a track record of accommodating Duke. It has approved rate hikes in 3 of the last 5 years. And NCUC has routinely agreed to Dukes long-term energy plans, which continues to rely heavily on expensive coal, gas and nuclear plants that risk becoming stranded assets. All under Finleys watch.

With its objectivity increasingly called into question, NCUC will soon confront critical decisions regarding the future of two energy sources. One is coal and its coal ash waste. Duke claims it will take on the cost of the most recent coal ash spill.

But the company appears confident that the cost of cleaning up its remaining coal ash pondsas much as some $1 billion will be passed on to customers.

Another decision surrounds net-metering. The policy allows homeowners with solar panels on their roofs to be compensated via credits for any surplus electricity they contribute back to the grid. Duke says it intends to press regulators to reduce that compensation, and keep more of that money for itself. Such a decision would certainly please ALEC Commissioner Dockhams club when he was state legislator as well.

The majority of the NCUC has built at least some portion of its career serving utility clients. But NCUC is not a law firm, its a public office. NCUC has the opportunity to show its commitment to that office by deciding in the public interest on major upcoming decisions. Otherwise, it risks providing the same customer service to Duke as DENR.

Read the original article on Greenpeace

PLEASE ATTEND this Thursday: Informational meeting with NC Public Staff and Duke Energy representatives

The North Carolina Public Staff has agreed to an informational meeting at Blue Ridge Community College in the CONFERENCE HALL [Note location change!] in Flat Rock, NC, on September 3rd from 6:00 – 9:00 pm.

This meeting is open to the public, but it is not an official public hearing.

The Public Staff will pose questions to Duke Energy representatives concerning this project, criteria, and timeline.  These questions will include many of the questions that the Public Staff has received from the general public, as well as questions developed by the Public Staff.

This is not a hearing and the meeting is not being conducted by the Utilities Commission.  The Public Staff, which is a separate and independent agency that represents the using and consuming public in utilities matters, will conduct the informational meeting. Write your representatives and ask them to call for a public hearing!

Members of the public will have an opportunity to speak for the purpose of raising relevant issues they believe should be considered as part of the process. 

This informational meeting will serve to more fully educate both the general public and the Public Staff with respect to this stage of the project and help bring greater clarity and transparency to the process.

NOTE: Location changed to BRCC Conference Hall (same location as August 13th meeting) [from WHKP].  The Blue Ridge Conference Hall is located at 49 East Campus​ Drive, ​Flat Rock, NC

 

From the Asheville Citizen-Times:

The Utilities Commission public staff is expected to ask Duke representatives about the process, criteria, and timeline used when siting transmission lines, said Christopher Ayers, executive director of that agency.

“The Public Staff has received numerous inquiries from the general public and elected officials regarding the Foothills Transmission Line project and we hope that this informational meeting will serve to more fully educate both the public and our staff,” Ayers said in a statement. “While this is not an official hearing, we believe the exchange of information will address many questions and help bring greater clarity and transparency to the process.”

The Public Staff has an informational webpage providing links to information of interest related to the project:
http://www.pubstaff.commerce.state.nc.us/pselec/Duke-Energy%20Foothills%20Project.html

 

Please join us there to voice your concern! We hope all residents of both NC and SC will come to show just how many people are affected by this.

************************

From N.C. Utilities Commission Public Staff:

The North Carolina Utilities Commission Public Staff will facilitate an informational meeting concerning Duke Energy’s proposed Foothills Transmission Line project on September 3, 2015 from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Blue Ridge Community College Auditorium. During the meeting, the Public Staff will pose questions to Duke Energy representatives concerning the process, criteria, and timeline used when siting transmission lines and the specific process Duke is using for the Foothills project. Members of the public will have an opportunity to speak for the purpose of raising relevant issues for consideration in the process. Organized groups are encouraged to designate speakers to provide comment so that as many communities and interests as possible can be heard. As this informational meeting pertains only to the portion of the project impacting western North Carolina, speakers will be limited to North Carolina residents only. “The Public Staff has received numerous inquiries from the general public and elected officials regarding the Foothills Transmission Line project and we hope that this informational meeting will serve to more fully educate both the public and our staff,” said Christopher Ayers, Executive Director of the Public Staff. “While this is not an official hearing, we believe the exchange of information will address many questions and help bring greater clarity and transparency to the process.”

The Public Staff may be contacted at (919) 733-9277

Duke Energy may be contacted at (919) 508-5400

Read more here

 

 

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

 

Town Hall Meeting on Duke’s plans with Congressman Mark Meadows

Mark Meadows, the representative of North Carolina’s 11th District – which includes a lot of the area which will be affected by Duke Power’s plans – will be hosting Town Hall Meeting this Friday!  We need to attend to ask him about his stance on Duke Power’s plans and make sure this issue is on our national representatives radar.

The meeting this Friday (August 27th) will be at Blue Ridge Community College from 6:30-8:00 PM.  

The address for Blue Ridge Community College is 180 W. Campus Dr. Flat Rock, NC 28731

A great turnout will go a long way towards making this an issue that Mark Meadows cares about.  Please turnout, ask questions, and make it clear that this is extremely important to his constituency.

If you cannot attend this meeting, another will be held in Lenoir, NC.  This open house will be on September 3rd from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM at West Caldwell High School.

The address is 300 W. Caldwell Dr.  Lenoir, NC 28645