The North Carolina Utilities Commission, in a Jan. 12 order, issued a certificate of environmental compatibility and public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to Duke Energy Progress (DEP) to build about 11.5 miles of new 230-kV transmission line in Johnston and Wake counties in North Carolina, subject to certain conditions.
As noted in the order, DEP in July 2017 filed its application seeking approval for the construction of the new line near the Cleveland-Matthews area of Johnston County.
In October 2017, the commission’s Public Staff filed a letter recommending that the commission grant the application on the conditions that:
- DEP be required to disclose any proposed shift in the centerline of the proposed route and, if such a shift occurs, that the commission should address whether notice and hearing requirements should be provided to affected landowners
- The commission, prior to DEP beginning construction of the line, first receive a letter from the State Environmental Review Clearinghouse stating that no further review action by the commission is required for compliance with the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act
The commission also noted that DEP witnesses Timothy Same and James Umbdenstock testified regarding the need to build a new 230-kV/23-kV transmission-to-distribution substation and a new 230-kV transmission line to provide power thereto in the Cleveland-Matthews area of Johnston County. Umbdenstock testified that there are currently no transmission lines or substations directly serving that area of the county.
Nine substations and 13 distribution circuits currently feed into the area, including two substations located in Wake County. The commission added six 23-kV feeders from four substations as far as 13 miles away terminate less than 1.5 miles from the proposed substation site. All six of those 23-kV feeders exceeded 17.6 MVA, which served as the winter planning limit for 23-kV feeders during the 2015 winter peak (January 2015).
The commission also noted that DEP bought the proposed substation site in 2015 based on the projected load center in and near the vicinity of Cleveland Road and Matthews Road in Johnston County.
Umbdenstock testified that customer energy usage in the Cleveland-Matthews and surrounding areas is increasing, the commission said, adding that opponents of the proposed line challenged the necessity of the new line and its substation. Many commenters argued that existing right of way (ROW) should be used instead of establishing a new ROW, the commission said. Others said that the proposed line was not needed to serve the Four Oaks area, but rather for the growth occurring in the Cleveland area to the north, the commission said, adding that they feel that the new line should be located to the north.
Same testified that DEP retained Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company to assist DEP with the line siting and soliciting of public input necessary for the project. Burns & McDonnell ultimately selected Route 31 as the preferred route for the line, and DEP proposed that route in its application for a CPCN, the commission added.
The projected cost of building the line on Route 31 is about $13.7m, the commission said.
Route 31 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 half of a mile before turning west for about two-tenths of a mile while crossing Matthews Road, the commission added.
Route 31 then continues south for about nine-tenths of a mile before crossing Middle Creek, and from that point, the route extends generally southeast for about 1.8 miles before crossing State Highway 210.
The route then continues in a south-southeasterly direction for about nine-tenths of a mile before crossing Lassiter Road, the commission added. From there, Route 31 extends about half of a mile in a south-southeasterly direction before crossing Hickory Grove Church Road. Route 31 then extends southeast for about nine-tenths of a mile and crosses King Mill Road.
The commission also said that continuing southeast for another two-tenths of a mile, the route then turns and travels east for about four-tenths of a mile before turning south. From there, the route extends in a south-southeasterly direction for six-tenths of a mile and crosses Black Creek.
Turning southeast, Route 31 then extends eight-tenths of a mile and crosses Elevation Road. The proposed route continues toward the southeast for about nine-tenths of a mile before turning south for six-tenths of a mile and crossing Old School Road. The commission also said that the route then turns southwest for one-tenth of a mile, then turns south for three-tenths of a mile before crossing Jackson Road.
The route continues to the south for three-tenths of a mile before turning southeast, extending about four-tenths of a mile, and crossing an existing CSX/Amtrak railroad line. The commission added that 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.
The commission said that DEP’s siting team determined that Route 31 was the preferred route because the route would affect the least number of homes located within 300 feet of the centerline; no places of business or public facilities are located within 500 feet of the centerline; no open space would be crossed by Route 31; during DEP’s route selection process, DEP received minimal concerns regarding the route; Route 31 contains no highly sensitive stream crossings; the route uses cropland where possible to avoid extensive tree removal; and the route crosses wetlands and hydric soils in a perpendicular manner where possible so as to require fewer permit conditions.
The commission said that it should be noted that one public witness testified that he owned a business that operated in his home and was within 500 feet of the proposed centerline. However, the commission said, it was not established whether that was a business that drew customer traffic, nor was it established that the reclassification of his property would materially change the results of the Burns & McDonnell ranking study.
Some individuals stated that the proposed route would split their property in half, and argued that in so doing, their land could be less amenable to future residential development, the commission said.
In response to commission questions, Same testified that DEP would agree to consider minor adjustments to the proposed route, provided that additional landowners would not be affected by such adjustments.
Among other things, the commission noted that many of the commenters expressed concerns that the line could have negative impacts on people, livestock, and crops. DEP routinely uses herbicides to assist in managing vegetation in its ROWs, the commission said, adding that in its vegetation management policies, the company has agreed to allow landowners to designate their property as being a “no spray” area.
The commission said that in order to address the alleged environmental risks expressed by consumers, it suggests that the company inform each affected landowner, in writing, of the option to designate her or his own land as a no-spray area.
The commission said that it concludes that DEP has demonstrated that the line is necessary for an adequate and reliable supply of electric energy to its service area, and has demonstrated that Route 31 is in the public interest, and that the proposed costs associated therewith are reasonable.
Among other things, the commission said that DEP is required to notify it of any proposed shift to the centerline of the approved route, and that prior to DEP’s construction of the line, the company is required to provide written notice to affected landowners of their option to designate their land as a “no-spray area.”