Progress Energy to cancel Woodfin lease — “if”

Progress Energy to cancel Woodfin lease — “if”-attachment0

Progress Energy currently holds a lease on a 70-acre tract adjacent to the former Buncombe County landfill in Woodfin that covers 50 years (with options for three 10-year extensions) and provides the right to sublet the property. While the lease document stipulates that the “primary purpose for which the Leased Land has been leased is for the anticipated construction and operation of a Combustion Turbine Electrical Power Plant,” it also permits Progress to “use the Leased Land for any lawful purposes” and says the company “shall be entitled to store and/or utilize coal ash from its Asheville Steam Plant on the Leased Land.”

The Woodfin Zoning Board of Adjustment denied Progress a conditional-use permit for a proposed plant during an April 2 public hearing.

Residents who have questioned the land deal at recent meetings of the Board of Commissioners have been assured by county officials that the lease included a termination clause that would take effect if the power-plant plan fell through. However, attorneys for the Canary Coalition and Mountain Voices Alliance have insisted that no such clause exists. County Attorney Joe Connolly and Assistant County Attorney Michael Frue told commissioners and Xpress that they would offer a full explanation of the lease and termination guarantees at the board’s regular meeting on May 15.

However, no report was provided at yesterday’s meeting. Instead, Chairman Nathan Ramsey read an e-mail sent to County Manager Wanda Greene by Ken Maxwell, community-relations manager for the utility, shortly before the commissioners’ meeting. It suggests that Progress will terminate the lease voluntarily if it decides not to challenge Woodfin’s denial of a permit.

However, Maxwell’s letter does not state explicitly that abandonment of the so-called “peak power” plant will trigger termination; rather, the company would forfeit the lease if “we no longer need this property.”

The e-mail is reproduced, verbatim, below.

— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer

_________________________________________________________________________________

From: Maxwell, Ken
Sent: Tue 5/15/2007 3:13 PM
To: Wanda Greene
Subject: Landfill Lease Agreement

We’d like to provide you with an update on the existing lease agreement between Progress Energy and Buncombe County on the old Buncombe County landfill site.

As you know, Progress Energy planned to use the landfill site for the placement of a fast-start power generating facility. This site is not being considered for any use other than to provide energy service for the region. Progress Energy has no interest in subleasing the property to another entity.

We have 30 days from receipt of the written order to appeal the Woodfin Board of Adjustment decision. The order was received on April 24 which means we have until May 24 to decide whether or not to appeal. We have not made final determination on the appeal option.

Our intentions are to work cooperatively with the community to meet the current and future energy needs of this region. If during that process it is determined the we no longer need this property, we plan to release our legal right to the property back to the County.

We appreciate everyone’s patience and support in determining the next steps to thhis very important project. As has been the case through this process, Progress Energy will continue to evaluate all options to provide safe, reliable, and affordable power to our customers in Western North Carolina.

Regards,
Ken Maxwell
Community Relations Manager

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About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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