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!

A scary vision of what Fletcher might look like if Duke gets their way

Take a look at the two images below.  Click on the images themselves to see them in all their glorious detail.

One shows a view of the valley in Livingston Farms across the Franklin farm looking toward Terry’s Gap. …

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and the other shows just what it could look like with Duke Power’s help.

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This is what we’re fighting for, folks – to stop this horrifying image from becoming a reality in our mountains.

 

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!

 

Hydro Electric Power may be an option for WNC

While Duke Power continues to insist that their plan for a new natural gas plant near Asheville plus miles and miles of invasive transmission lines is the only solution for western North Carolina’s energy needs, could there be an alternative?  MountainTrue has had some early discussions with Brookfield Renewable, the company that owns several hydropower dams in Graham County and eastern Tennessee.  While this is not necessarily an immediate solution to strengthening North Carolina’s energy infrastructure, why isn’t Duke Power even looking into alternatives like this?

Brookfield Renewable had this to say:

There are 380 MW of hydro power in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee owned by Brookfield Renewable Energy Group that are not currently under contract and are available to Duke Energy for purchase to help meet the energy needs of this region.  This significant renewable energy source should be part of Duke’s analysis as to whether their proposed gas plant and transmission lines are really needed.  Duke should seek the meet the energy needs of this region first with existing renewable energy generated in our own region and then through additional investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy in order to minimize the community and environmental impacts of their proposed “modernization” plan.

Shouldn’t Duke Power at least look into the possibility of using these existing hydro power options?  Are there more options that Duke hasn’t considered that would be less invasive and destructive to western North Carolina?  This is why we need more hearings, more information, and more answers.

Fletcher Town Council officially opposes Duke’s plans

Tonight, the Fletcher Town Council joined the chorus of voices in western North Carolina and South Carolina opposing Duke Power’s plan for new transmission lines in our communities.  With a backdrop of “raucous applause,” the Fletcher Town Council officially adopted a resolution to oppose the construction of Duke’s proposed new transmission lines in their area.

With this resolution, Fletcher has joined the Polk County Commissioners and groups representing the towns of Saluda, Laurel Park, and Mills River in officially adopting positions that oppose these proposed power lines.

Craig Harris, a Fletcher resident who attended the meeting, captured the sentiment sweeping western North Carolina when he spoke to Bill Moss of Hendersonville Lightning:

“We moved here 10 years ago and we could never see moving anywhere else,” he said, adding that he grew up in a big city in California with industry and power lines. “We moved here for the beauty of what Fletcher is. To allow something like this transmission line to come through here and destroy a way of life would be a tragedy.”

Read the rest of the article on the website of the Hendersonville Lightning here.

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.

New transmission line definitely going through Foothills

The new transmission line from Duke Power seems destined to go through the foothills somewhere, unless we can do something about it!

In Duke’s first official filing to move forward with their proposed Western Carolinas Modernization Project, the power company has begun the official process of making this plan a reality.  In it, Duke representatives say that their transmission line will have to go through the foothills somewhere:

Duke says it is interested in finding the best possible route for the community. But the company says ultimately, the line will have to run from existing transmission infrastructure near Campobello to Fletcher, N.C., just south of Asheville.

Those points are fixed. There are many possible routes between them, and Duke says information received from residents about historic areas, potential economic harm and environmental concerns will be part of the company’s considerations.

But the line is going to have to go through the Foothills somewhere.

 

Duke employees will attend SC Public Service Commission hearing in Landrum

In a recent announcement sent out on August 21, Duke Power representatives have told the South Carolina Public Service Commission that they will send Duke Power employees to attend the PSC hearing in Landrum on Thursday, August 27.  Duke’s representatives at the meeting will include those directly involved in selecting the route on which to build their new transmission line, meaning this is a terrific opportunity to directly influence Duke’s decision makers.  Your voices are making Duke Power take notice, and they even mention in this announcement that they’ve received over 4,000 comments so far!

Duke Power’s representatives will not be speaking at this meeting – instead, their employees will wait until after the final application is filed with the South Carolina Public Service Commission to comment publicly and testify at various hearings.

Additionally, Duke Power stated in this announcement that they will, as they’ve previously stated, be announcing their selected route for the new transmission line in early October.  They will then be filing their formal application to commence with construction on all the various parts of the Western Carolinas Modernization Project in late 2015 or early 2016.

Click here to read all of Duke’s announcement.