June 20, 2008

Environmental Group Criticizes Utility

By The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.

Jun. 20--SOUTHERN PINES -- A Moore County environmental group has accused Progress Energy of withholding information and tromping through ecologically sensitive land while attempting to build a high voltage electric line.

Progress Energy disputes the accusations.

In a letter sent to state officials, Save Our Sandhills called for a review of Progress Energy's planning and construction process.

By mid-2011, the utility company is slated to build a 32-mile electric line between Rockingham and West End. The line could cross the N.C. Sandhills Game Land, a nearly 59,000-acre preserve stretching through Hoke, Scotland, Richmond and Moore counties.

In a resolution, Save Our Sandhills says Progress Energy should prune trees near transmission lines, not chop them down.

The document also calls for the utility company to make public the right-of-way agreements, route of the power line, tree-cutting plans and a list of land that could be condemned.

Progress Energy has shared information with the public, said spokesman Mike Hughes.

"We do work very hard and try to incorporate meaningful public input into the process early and often," Hughes said. "We also recognize this is not a popular part of running a utility."

The company has held public hearings and posted information about the project on its Web site, www.progress-energy.com.

Progress Energy typically chops down trees along transmission lines because a tree-related outage could result in stiff fines from the federal government, Hughes said. Removing trees saves pruning costs, he said.

"Those costs are borne by customers," he said.

Progress Energy has 6,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines and 60,000 miles of low voltage lines in the Carolinas, Hughes said.


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Copyright (c) 2008, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.

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