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Utilities Commission public staff will question Duke on power line

The North Carolina Utilities Commission Public Staff said it will question Duke Energy officials Thursday night about the timeline and criteria of their decision-making process for a 45-mile transmission line from the South Carolina Upstate to the Lake Julian, the public staff said in a statement.

"During the meeting, the Public Staff will pose questions to Duke Energy representatives concerning the process, criteria, and timeline used when siting transmission lines and the specific process Duke is using for the Foothills project," the Public Staff said in the statement on the Utilities Commission website announcing the meeting.

The meeting Thursday night in Hendersonville is different from one last Thursday in Campobello, S.C. The South Carolina Public Service Commission held a public hearing and heard comments from residents, landowners, conservation groups and elected leaders. The hearing here is not a meeting of the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

The Public Staff represents the using and consuming public in utility cases before the Utilities Commission. As a separate and independent agency, "our job is to look out for consumer interests and to advocate for rates that are fair and reasonable while ensuring safe and reliable service," the public staff says on its website. "We will be reviewing the application and presenting our findings and recommendations to the Commission regarding whether Duke Energy has met the statutory requirements for constructing the line. We will also be attending all of the hearings in the case to assist members of the public in presenting their views to the Commission."

The meeting on Duke's Foothills Transmission Line project is at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Blue Ridge Conference Hall at Blue Ridge Community College.
"Members of the public will have an opportunity to speak for the purpose of raising relevant issues for consideration in the process," the Public staff said. "Organized groups are encouraged to designate speakers to provide comment so that as many communities and interests as possible can be heard. As this informational meeting pertains only to the portion of the project impacting western North Carolina, speakers will be limited to North Carolina residents only.

“The Public Staff has received numerous inquiries from the general public and elected officials regarding the Foothills Transmission Line project and we hope that this informational meeting will serve to more fully educate both the public and our staff,” Christopher Ayers, executive director of the public staff, said in the announcement. “While this is not an official hearing, we believe the exchange of information will address many questions and help bring greater clarity and transparency to the process.”