Blue Ridge Community College to host utility meeting Thursday

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Duke Energy will be answering questions posed by the North Carolina Utility Commission Public Staff at a meeting scheduled in Flat Rock at Blue Ridge Community College from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight.

 Attendees will be directed to the conference hall located in the Technology Education Development Center. The hall, located at 180 West Campus Drive, boasts a capacity of 850, giving the meeting the opportunity to surpass the Aug. 27 Landrum High School meeting’s attendance of 600.

 The utility commission’s public staff, organizers of the meeting, represent the public in matters that will be presented to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, which is a separate entity.

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 Unlike the Landrum High School meeting, utilities commissioners will not be making an official appearance at the meeting. Instead, public staff members will be questioning Duke Energy officials regarding the proposed Western Carolinas Modernization Project, its process, criteria, and timeline used when siting transmission lines and the specific process Duke is using for the Foothills project.

 According to the public staff website, 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. Since the informational meeting pertains only to the portion of the project impacting western North Carolina, speakers will be limited to North Carolina residents only.

 Project opponents, and North Carolina residents will be given a rare opportunity to hear Duke Energy officials answer questions directly, as the company did not participate in the Landrum meeting.

 The meeting will take place just three days after Duke Energy closed the public comment period, and will come as one of the final avenues to communicate to Duke Energy, as project officials prepare to announce the selected transmission route.

 Duke Energy has announced plans to replace its 376-megawatt Asheville coal-fired generating plant with a 650-MW natural gas combined cycle generating plant and to construct a new approximately 45-mile 230-kiloVolt transmission line to connect the new Asheville plant to a transmission substation being built near Campobello, S.C.  Duke Energy has been studying potential routes for the new transmission line tor several months, and has said it will announce its recommended route in early October.