Unpublicized meetings lead to cut-rate lease for Progress Energy

An overflow crowd spilled out of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners chambers at their meeting last night. The hot-button issue was the proposed siting of a Progress Energy power plant on the old county landfill in Woodfin. The proposed 50-year contract for the project granted use of the land for one dollar per year for a diesel-fired peak-demand plant. The power company is already the largest industrial source of air pollution in this part of the state, and the proposed plant will boost emissions during peak electrical use periods,Aeinotably those summer months when air quality in this region is at its worst.

In the course of a public hearing, Chairman Nathan Ramsey affirmed that some commissioners had been holding unpublicized meetings with the utility company over the past two years. “But there was never a quorum present, so it was legal,” he said. The first public notice of the plans came in a press release from Progress Energy early last month.

Three dozen opponents of the plan, including physicians, architects, engineers, solar energy experts, and environmentalists, spoke out during the hearing, but at least four commissioners had made their decision in advance, according to Commissioner David Young. The commissioners ignored pleas for a 30-day delay and voted 5-0 to approve the lease.

- Cecil Bothwell, staff writer

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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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