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Oil-Burning Power Plant Permit Denied in Buncombe County, NC Today, 7 to 0

Woodfin nixes power plant
Board votes 7-0 after residents rally against Progress plan

WOODFIN — A town board early this morning voted down a proposal by Progress Energy to build a $72 million power plant in Woodfin.

About 150 people had packed a public hearing of the Board of Adjustment, saying they worried the plant would bring down property values and hurt air quality.

The board voted 7-0 just after midnight to deny Progress Energy’s request for a conditional-use permit. The utility wants to build an oil-burning plant that would generate about 130 megawatts of electricity to serve 150,000 customers during high-demand periods.
The Board of Adjustment’s decision can be appealed in court. In making a decision, the board was to weigh factors including effect on public health, any harm nearby on property values and traffic.

“We had what seemed like an overwhelming amount of evidence that it wouldn’t benefit Woodfin,” board Chairman Robert Powers said.

Progress Energy can appeal the decision in court. Spokesman Ken Maxwell said officials have yet to make any decision on an appeal.

During the marathon hearing, residents including Ellen Rubenstein-Chelmis questioned a need for the plant.

“I don’t think we need to burn anything to make fuel anymore,” she said. “I would like to see Progress be champion instead of a villain.”

Warren Wilson College economics professor Susan Kask told board members the power plant’s location would lower property values regardless of environmental impact.

“It could be the cleanest plant in the world,” Kask said. “It doesn’t matter.”

Building the plant could kill plans for a 167-home development on the French Broad, developer Robert Whirley, chief financial officer for Preserve Communities, told the board.

The Reynolds Mountain development has lost $1 million in sales in the past week because of plans for the power plant, said John Metcalf, director of business development.

Progress Energy says emissions would be within air pollution guidelines and that the plant is needed to provide reliable power.

Maxwell has said the plant would operate only about 10 percent of the time, would be capable of supplying the least amount of energy to meet demand and would burn a new type of low-sulfur diesel fuel.

The site proposed by the utility would be a good fit for the area with it already having served as a landfill, Maxwell said.

The land has zoning for heavy industrial use and a wastewater treatment plant is nearby, he said.

Progress needs the plant for its ability to start within minutes of determining need for additional power, Maxwell said.

The plant also would occupy 18 acres of a 79-acre site, with the rest used as a buffer that would make it harder to see.

Even with a successful appeal, Progress still also must win an air quality permit and must prove need for the plant before that state Utilities Commission in the fall.

By Nanci Bompey, NBOMPEY@CITIZEN-TIMES.COM

Courtesy of John Coutlakis, jcoutlakis@citizen-times.com
Woodfin resident Mark Hebbard questions Progress Energy representatives about air pollution effects from a proposed oil-fired power plant on the old county landfill in Woodfin. The public hearing took place at the Woodfin Community Center

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