Duke Energy answers tough questions from angry crowd hundreds pack public hearing

FlatRockDukeHearingFLAT ROCK, N.C. Duke Energy officials were in the hot seat Thursday night.They took questions from a fired-up crowd at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock, North Carolina.The meeting was concerning the modernization project expected to bring 45 miles of new power lines to the region.

More than 800 people packed the hearing.For more than an hour, Duke answered tough questions from the Public Staff Utilities Commission.  Then they took questions from the crowd.

One of the questions was, why can’t Duke put lines underground? Officials said they looked into it and it would cost seven times the amount the proposed plan costs.

Another question to Duke was, why the lines can’t go through existing rights of way? Officials said the company is looking to co-locate new lines where possible, but they will still need to build new structures to accommodate all the lines.

Duke Energy officials admitted a study on adverse health effects was inconclusive.

“The most favored solution by all is for Duke to cancel the proposed transmission project,” said a woman.

Many at the public hearing said they feel misled.

“I am appalled by the method they are taking, and I am also appalled by the misinformation,” said Debra Stephens. Duke Energy is looking at four possible routes to put 140-foot power lines.

Spokesman Tom Williams said Duke Energy understands there will be some negative impacts but said a project like this is necessary to keep the lights on.

“It’s booming and there hasn’t been additional infrastructure built in the actual region, in this area really since the 70s,” said Williams.

Stephens said she doesn’t believe there are no other alternatives.

“We are the people that are going to have the base of our economy damaged, the base of our lifetime investment, of individuals, only for them to put corporate money in their pockets,” said Stephens.

Those against the project feel no matter what Duke decides, nobody wins.

“This is infringing on people’s property rights, their life plans, that are completely uprooted if a transmission line comes through their property or their neighborhood,” said Joan Walker with the Carolina Land Coalition.

Duke Energy will announce its final decision on a route in early October.