North Carolina regulatory staff call for approval of DEP transmission line

North Carolina Utilities Commission Public Staff on Oct. 16 said that based on its investigation and review of Duke Energy Progress’ (DEP) July application for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public convenience and necessity to build a transmission line in Johnston County, N.C., staff recommends that the commission issue the certificate, subject to certain conditions.

Staff noted that as part of its review, it met with impacted property owners and representatives of DEP, responded to phone calls from impacted residents, and reviewed responses to data requests submitted to the company. The application was submitted on Sept. 29 to the State Clearinghouse, which has indicated that its review should be completed on Nov. 3, staff said.

As noted in the company’s July application, the company proposes to build the new, approximately 11.5-mile, 230-kV line in the Cleveland area of Johnston County, with the line originating at the proposed Cleveland-Matthews Road 230-kV/23-kV transmission-to-distribution substation and terminating at the tap point along the existing Erwin-Selma 230-kV transmission line.

The project is referred to in the application as the Cleveland-Matthews Line.

The company also noted that its assessment of electric energy requirements has identified the need to build a new 230-kV/23-kV transmission-to-distribution substation and a new 230-kV transmission line to provide power to the substation in the Cleveland area. There are currently no transmission lines or substations in that area of the county, which is roughly bounded by Interstate 40 on the west, Highway 70 Bypass on the north, Highway 70 on the east, and Interstate 95 on the south.

That area, the company added, is about 125,000 acres in size and is located entirely within DEP’s service territory, except for the portion within the city limits of Smithfield in the extreme southeastern corner of that area. Nine substations and 13 distribution circuits currently feed into that area, including two substations located in Wake County, the company said.

The new substation and associated transmission line are required to provide needed capacity and enhanced service reliability to support residential and commercial customer growth, DEP said.

The company noted that it retained Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company to assist with the transmission line siting and public input process for the Cleveland-Matthews Line.

The study area – which encompasses about 277 square miles – is located in east-central North Carolina in Johnston and Wake counties; the majority of the study area is located in Johnston County, and a small portion of Wake County comprises the northwest portion of the study area.

DEP added that the western boundary of the study area runs along the company’s existing Erwin-Milburnie 230-kV transmission line; the northern portion of the study area extends eastward from the Town of Garner; the eastern boundary runs along the existing Lee-Milburnie 230-kV transmission line; and the southern boundary of the study area extends along the Erwin-Selma 230-kV transmission line.

DEP said that the preferred route for the Cleveland-Matthews Line originates at the site of the proposed Cleveland-Matthews Road substation, located on the southeast corner of Polenta Road and Matthews Road in Johnston County. The route exits the substation site to the southeast and extends for about 0.5 mile before turning west for about 0.2 mile while crossing Matthews Road. DEP added that the route then continues south for about 0.9 mile before crossing Middle Creek.

From that point, the preferred route extends generally southeast for about 1.8 miles before crossing NC State Highway 210. The route then continues south-southeast for about 0.9 miles before crossing Lassiter Road, DEP added. From there, the route extends about 0.5 mile south-southeast before crossing Hickory Grove Church Road. The route then extends southeast for about 0.9 mile and crosses King Mill Road. Continuing southeast for another 0.2 mile, the route then turns and travels east for about 0.4 mile before turning south.

The route extends south-southeast for 0.6 mile and crosses Black Creek. DEP also said that turning southeast, the route then extends 0.8 mile and crosses Elevation Road. The route continues to travel southeast for another approximately 0.9 mile, and then turns south for 0.6 mile and crosses Old School Road.

The route then turns southwest for 0.1 mile and then turns south for 0.3 mile before crossing Jackson Road. DEP added that the route continues to the south for 0.3 mile before turning southeast, extending about 0.4 mile, and crossing an existing CSX/Amtrak railroad line. The route continues southeast for about 1.3 miles, crossing U.S. Highway 301, Parker Road, and Interstate 95 before terminating at a tap point along the existing Erwin-Selma 230-kV transmission line, DEP said.

As noted in Burns & McDonnell’s Routing Study and Environmental Report for the “Cleveland-Matthews Road 230kV Transmission Tap Line Project,” the total cost estimated for the project is about $28m.

The report also noted that the projected schedule for the project calls for right of way acquisition to occur summer 2017-summer 2018; construction to occur fall 2018-late 2019; and for the project to be in service in late 2019.

Among other things, the report said that the construction and operation of the proposed project would have limited impacts on natural and social resources in the study area. The preferred route would have relatively minor overall impacts, the report said, adding that no businesses or public facilities are within 500 feet of the preferred route, and 45 residences are within 500 feet, most of which are in a rural setting spaced over an 11-mile route.

Additionally, the report noted that environmental impacts are expected to be limited as there are no state or federal lands, or lands designated for recreational purposes, located near the preferred route alignment. Impacts to protected species is anticipated to be minimal, as the species found along the preferred route are aquatic and streams are not anticipated to be disturbed during construction or operation of the line. The report further noted that there are no National Register of Historic Places-listed or eligible archaeological or historic sites or properties near the preferred route.

In its Oct. 16 filing, Public Staff said that it believes that DEP has complied with certain requirements and has demonstrated that the proposed line is necessary and that when compared with reasonable alternative courses of action, construction of the line in the proposed location is reasonable, that the estimated costs associated with the line are reasonable, that the impact of the line on the environment is justified considering the state of available technology, and that the environmental compatibility, public convenience, and necessity requires the line.

Public Staff noted that it met with DEP representatives to review requests from property owners to shift the centerline of the preferred route, and that it encourages the company to continue to work with property owners where DEP can address concerns raised by the owners.

However, to the extent the shift in the centerline of the proposed route impacts a property owner who is not currently impacted by the preferred route contained in DEP’s application, the new proposed route should be subject to certain notice and hearing requirements unless a waiver of those requirements is obtained from the property owners impacted by the shift.

As conditions to the commission issuing the requested certificate, Public Staff added that the company is to disclose any proposed shift in the centerline of the proposed route and address whether notice and hearing requirements should be provided to additional property owners, and that the commission receives a letter from the State Clearinghouse stating no further State Clearinghouse review action by the commission is required for compliance with the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.