Progress Energy blocked — but power company still holds lease in Woodfin

Progress Energy’s plan to build a power plant on land adjacent to the old Buncombe County county landfill was thwarted by the town of Woodfin’s Zoning Board of Adjustment last night, but the company still holds a one dollar per year lease on the property.

In order to proceed with the plan, the company needed to obtain a conditional-use permit from the board, which rejected Progress’ request. (In this photo, opponents of the plant applaud the decision.)

The decision can be challenged in court if Progress decides to pursue such a course. In the meantime, the company holds a 50-year lease on 78 acres of Buncombe County property, with options to renew for an additional 30 years. The lease also permits the company to store coal ash from its Skyland power-generation station on land on the banks of the French Broad River. While the parcel is part of the property originally set aside for a landfill, it was never used and officials with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources told Xpress that they place no restrictions on its use, other than maintaining access to test wells located there. DENR is the agency charged with licensing and regulating sanitary landfills in the state.

Several local activist groups — People Advocating Real Conservancy, the Mountain Voices Alliance, the Canary Coalition and Save Our Slopes — will hold a press conference at 3 p.m. today, April 3, in front of the Buncombe County Courthouse to challenge the legality of the lease and the process by which it was awarded. Investigation by the Canary Coalition has led to release of the air-quality permit application Progress Energy filed with the town of Woodfin. According to the group’s executive director, Avram Friedman, “The permit includes a lease option agreement between Buncombe County and Progress Energy signed by [Buncombe County Manager] Wanda Greene in March 2005.” Friedman asked, “When was the public meeting at which that agreement was authorized by the Board of Commissioners?” (See “What price Progress?” March 7, Xpress).

— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer

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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9 thoughts on “Progress Energy blocked — but power company still holds lease in Woodfin

  1. And I, like many in the Woodfin / Alexander area WANT the plant. Come next winter when things go dark due to all the new houses putting too much load on the lines, those opposed are gonna shiver, crying in the darkness.

  2. True… but until we make a breakthrough in clean and SAFE atomic energy, solar power, or even zero-point energy, fossil fuels is it. So let’s build the power plant in Woodfin. This end of the county is growing like crazy and we desperately need power.

  3. Sundance

    With all due respect solar is here and is a viable option. Progress and other power companies just need to get off their butt and start promoting their power surplus buy back programs or take them out of their test phases. These programs have done wonders to cut and ease power consumption all across the country. NC does not force power companies to buy surplus power from consumers through legislation like some states do. While I hate the idea of government interference in the free market maybe the only way the process will gain popularity in NC is if the state government requires power companies to buy surplus power from consumers. Then folks like Progress would be forced to start investing in environmentally friendly green alternatives.

  4. Sundance

    Well I think we should just agree to disagree because I for one do not think it was needed even if our rates went up a little from buying surplus power from the grid it is far better then pumping more pollution into the air and affecting the beautiful surroundings we live in.

  5. I am a native of this area who lives quite near Woodfin. We USED to have a power plant on the French Broad at what is now Woodfin, it’s not something new.

    We suffer brownouts and outages in both summer and winter, we have have for the last 20 years or so. And look how the area is growing now. If you REALLY want to help us, convince some of the influx of flatlanders moving in to move on. ;-)

  6. Sundance

    Brown outs are not unnecessarily caused by the lack of power, it more likely Progress not allocating enough power to the lines in the area and additionally not securing enough supplies from outside vender’s (ie. surplus power). I live north of Weaverville and suffer the same and it is only for short periods of time. I also lived in North Asheville for a while and had momentary losses of power. While an inconvenience it is manageable. You said in the long term my goal was a good option but in the short term a power plant was needed which I feel is futile because Progress Energy will do as it always has and continue in its old ways as in not updating their lines which are greatly needed, and just build more environmentally unfriendly plants. So why not in the short term buy surplus power off the grid by paying a little more and begin changing are habits to more environmentally friendly alternatives?

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