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Duke Energy to take more time on Asheville power line

Duke Energy plans to build a 45-mile transmission line to its Asheville plant near Skyland.
Duke Energy plans to build a 45-mile transmission line to its Asheville plant near Skyland.

Duke Energy said Thursday it will rethink a controversial transmission line from South Carolina to its Asheville power plant after a wave of local opposition.

Duke said it needs more time to “carefully consider” the more than 9,000 public comments that have rolled in, most of them against the project.

The company said it will extend its review of the project to early November, a month later than the timeline it set in August.

Spokesman Tom Williams said Duke is responding both to the volume of comments and their substance. He said the other components of its work in Asheville – retiring the coal-fired power plant and replacing it with one fueled by natural gas – will go forward.

“The need is still there, and something will be done,” he said.

But Duke says it will consider alternatives to the 45-mile transmission line, a substation in Campobello, S.C., and the gas-fired power plant.

The design of the gas plant, for example, could be reconfigured with different units so the transmission line isn’t needed, the company said.

Duke may also stick with its original plan or make other adjustments.

Critics of the project said they were heartened by the delay.

“This decision shows what is possible when a community unites to protect the land that we all love, and when a company listens,” said Julie Mayfield, codirector of the Asheville-based environmental group MountainTrue.

The Duke Energy Progress utility is facing growing demand for power at peak times in the Asheville region, where it serves 160,000 customers.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

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