Bolstering a letter it wrote last month to Duke Energy, the Hendersonville City Council on Thursday adopted a resolution calling for an independent review of the need for a 45-mile transmission line through Henderson County and asking the utility to make concessions on the size and nature of the infrastructure.
The City Council’s action means that the Board of Commissioners and the elected leaders of all five towns have now formally weighed in on the transmission line.
Drafted jointly by city and county officials and elected leaders, the resolution calls on the Public Staff of the Utilities Commission to hire a consultant to conduct an independent analysis of the need for the line and calls on Duke to make the power line less noticeable, to bury the line if possible and work with local government on a greenway.
“What we’re saying is we’re stating our desires to both groups and we’ll go into the details when the time comes,” said Councilman Jeff Miller. “But the threshold question hasn’t been answered. That is, if the transmission line is going through.”
Councilman Jerry Smith said he would like to know whether Duke Energy intends to grant any of the requests.
“If we’re going to send part of this to the Utilities Commission and part of this to Duke Energy it would certainly be in good faith if Duke Energy would make any statement as to whether or not they were going to follow any of these,” said Councilman Jerry Smith. “We’re asking Duke Energy to do things. I don’t know what requirements there are to follow these.”
Smith asked City Attorney Sam Fritschner whether individuals or groups have the legal right to attend the Utilities Commission meetings and speak.
“Does any body — a person or collective group — have standing if they either want to be present to make a statement or in the end if they disagree with the Utilities Commission — to go to court and say they made the wrong decision?” Smith asked.
“The statute requires that any resident of Henderson County has the right to attend the hearings,” Fritschner said. “My guess is they would have the right to speak.”
Miller pointed out residents and elected leaders are weighing in on the line without knowing where it would be or whether regulators will approve it.
“We’re way in front of everything,” Miller said. “Everyone has been, since Duke Energy hasn’t even presented their route yet. That has to be decided upon if it is in fact needed. But there will be public hearings and everyone can go and participate. If Duke does in fact get the go-ahead on this, (opponents) have to go before the Utilities Commission.”
The resolution follows the city’s earlier letter, making many of the same requests.
Although he voted in favor of the resolution, Councilman Ron Stephens said he would have preferred adopting a statement in a joint meeting with the Board of Commissioners, an idea the two bodies considered but were unable to work out.
“I really question why we’re here today,” Stephens said, given that the city had already sent a letter to Duke Energy. “I think it puts us in a weak position” because it looked like the city was following the county’s lead.
“But it doesn’t,” Miller said later. “It in no way puts us in a weak position.”
Tommy Thompson, the chair of the Board of Commissioners, said Tuesday night that the resolution the commissioners passed was jointly generated with input from City Manager John Connet, Miller and other council members.