Cong. Patrick McHenry addresses Duke Energy’s transmission line project

Published 9:15 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Representing North Carolina’s 10th Congressional District, Patrick McHenry visited Columbus to hold a town hall meeting on Monday, Aug. 17. While the majority of questions posed by the audience of 88 pertained to Duke Energy’s Western Carolinas Modernization project, many topics, including Iran and Planned Parenthood, were also tackled. A show of hands indicated who was interested in the Duke Energy transmission line project in the Foothills. (Photo by Brandon Shanesy)

Sixteen questions and comments were taken from the audience. Topics ranged from Planned Parenthood to social security, flag desecration to the recent negotiations with Iran.

Elaine Burgess, the eighth commenter, was the first to mention Duke Energy’s Western Carolinas Modernization Project.

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“A lot of us are here for this issue,” said Burgess, followed by applause.

“We don’t want this,” she added.

Burgess asked McHenry what he could do for Polk County, a topic that many attendees were eager to have discussed.

McHenry proceeded to ask the audience to raise their hand if the modernization project concerned them.

Hands shot up around the room, and in some cases, both hands were raised.

Seeing that the audience strongly opposed Duke Energy’s most recent endeavor, McHenry asked the audience if they supported solar energy and natural gas.

Agreement from the crowd rang out.

The following question regarding nuclear energy drew room-wide disagreement.

“At least admit reality,” said McHenry. “More energy is not a bad thing.”

Burgess’ comment sparked a wave of Duke-related speakers to follow.

In fact, seven of the remaining eight comments pertained to the Western Carolinas Modernization Project.

These commenters requested McHenry to use his federal influence to protect Polk County from the transmission lines.

“We’re calling on you to help our community and make Duke explore other options,” said the 13th speaker, Don Whistman. “You are our elected representative and should represent us on this issue.”

The Duke comments followed the same theme. Attendees were curious as to McHenry’s view on the transmission line and the power he possesses to oppose it.

“When I look at issues like this and read about them in the newspaper I think certainly this will be resolved at the state level and local level,” said McHenry. “This isn’t a federal issue.”

“If there is any interaction with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, then I have a role as a federal representative,” he added.

McHenry told the audience that without federal involvement, the most he could do is pass on the concerns of his constituents to Duke Energy.

This was not the response that many outspoken attendees were looking for.

“I get a sense of how ticked off this crowed is when you won’t even admit that Duke Power and less pollution is a good thing,” said McHenry following a wave of disapproval.

“While the benefits go north, Polk County is the one that has to deal with these transmission lines, and I’m sensitive to that fact,” said McHenry in his closing remarks. “I hear you loud and clear on the Duke issue, and I will be your voice on this.”