Letter writer: Local governments should require Duke Energy to bury transmission lines

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Back in the ‘50s, when I was growing up, my uncle had a television, and the kids used to watch the first beginnings of advertising on TV. I remember “doctors” coming on TV and espousing the advantages of smoking menthol cigarettes, which were supposed to be “better” for your health than regular cigarettes. At 5 years old, I knew that had to be a fib. Sure enough, people began dropping like flies from the effects of smoking.

The government did not protect the public at that time, and the cigarette industry took advantage of the fact that scientific studies were not 100 percent [conclusive in] showing the link between cigarette smoking and cancer. Even after the link was shown to be present, lawyers from the tobacco industry fought a very successful battle to keep their product on the market, citing “freedom of choice” (of an addictive drug!). They still sell cigarettes today.

Fast forward to 2015. Duke Energy is attempting to string overhead wires of 230 kilovolts from our little city of Asheville down to Campobello, S.C. (ironic name for a little town which translates into “beautiful countryside”). The lines will mar the landscape, and the towers are 150 feet tall. Worse, they will emit radiation.

The government (both federal and state) is not protecting the public again. There are scientific studies that show that EMF (the term used for electromagnetic radiation) has a “demonstrable effect” on the human body. What those long-term effects are is unclear. Leukemia is one of the possible side effects.

There is, of course, an easy (but more expensive) option: Bury the lines and route them down the federally owned I-26 corridor. That would reduce radiation … as well as do away with the eyesore problem. With new dielectric “direct burial” cables, the expense has gone way down for the burial option. This option is mandatory in many other communities, and is rapidly catching on as the preferred option of transmitting power in Europe, especially in cities.

This whole controversy does have a viable option. Why would Duke not take this option? Two reasons. First, North Carolina is pretty much controlled by Duke Energy. The governor spent 28 years with the company before becoming governor and has proven his loyalty to Duke by shifting the costs to the taxpayer when the recent environmental disaster caused a coal ash pond to rupture, dumping millions of gallons of pollutants into North Carolina rivers. The Utilities Commission, which has some oversight, seems to not be doing its job in regulation of the industry and its practices.

It reminds me of the old Peabody Coal Co. and its stranglehold on West Virginia. Peabody was allowed to totally destroy the ecology of the mountains in that state by strip mining and not recovering the land.

So, Duke will not take the option because they have the freedom to do what they want without regard to the local community’s wishes or health. They do it daily, as heavy metals leech into the French Broad River from their coal ash pond at Lake Julian, while the local governments sit by and allow people to swim in the French Broad without posting any warnings of that danger along with the general pollution that exists in the river.

The second reason Duke will not choose the burial option is that no local city attorney has the guts to pass an ordinance regulating either the eyesore problem or the EMF problem. They state that they cannot, because of the “mother-may-I” structure of North Carolina laws, which prohibits local governments from regulating anything that the state government hasn’t addressed. However, this is a false choice, and a very good argument can be made that if the state of North Carolina refuses to protect its citizens, the citizens in a local government have every right to pass regulations for the public good.

If the state rules against the city/county, then it should be brought to federal court for a proper hearing. That would not only tie up Duke Energy for years, but ultimately, the public would win that argument. Already, it can be proven that EMF leaking over into the environment past the legitimate right-of-way that Duke will have has an effect on humans. It would be up to Duke to prove that the EMF regulations are too strict (i.e., Duke would have to prove that it is safe to absorb that much radiation).

Will the local governments attempt such a move? I think they should. It is the right thing to do. Plus, any regulation at all would force Duke to take the option of burying the transmission lines. … Those readers who wish to support this cause can contact UTL directly at planetwatchdog@hotmail.com.

— Alan ODonnell
Underground Transmission Lines
Asheville

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4 thoughts on “Letter writer: Local governments should require Duke Energy to bury transmission lines

  1. James

    Electricity is needed in areas where people live. Where businesses have to exist so people can earn incomes. Where stores and restaurants exist where people have to buy food and other necessities to live. Metro Asheville is growing fast and more electricity and the ability to deliver that electricity is a necessity. Duke Energy provides great services and everyone should be grateful to them for providing cost-effective electricity, jobs and good customer service. Solar energy is only good for supplemental energy and fractional supplemental energy at best. Tearing up interstates to plant power lines underneath them is not going to happen. It’s time to take a deep breath, take an economics class and if you’re still angry with Duke Energy, coal and power lines, then I urge you to spend a week in mid February with zero electricity or anything in your house that requires electricity.

    • CaveHippies

      > I urge you to spend a week in mid February with zero electricity or anything in your house that requires electricity.

      Dude, you can like see the stars, man… this like, tripping…

  2. Between the lines

    Not in this state can local governments require high tension lines to be buried. Greensboro tried regulating tree trimming by Duke and that ordinance was struck down in court as power solely in hands of the Utilities Commission. So, a court case would stay at the state level….probably not the federal level….so hoping it stays tied up for years ain’t happening. NC courts would move fast to dispose of such legislation.

  3. Lulz

    Fringe making it hard to survive in the area LOL. Don’t comprehend that the place was a million times better before they came here lulz. When I was growing up, there was actual free greenspace everywhere. Now asphalt and stolen money to pay for faux greeways to the nearest brewery or trinket shop LOL.

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