Press Release: Duke Energy Request to Raise Energy Bills Would Hurt Working Families, Limit Energy-Efficiency in Western NC

Press Release: Duke Energy Request to Raise Energy Bills Would Hurt Working Families, Limit Energy-Efficiency in Western NC

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Duke Energy Request to Raise Energy Bills Would Hurt Working Families, Limit Energy-Efficiency in Western NC

Media Contact:

Eliza Stokes

Advocacy & Communications Associate, MountainTrue

E: eliza@mountaintrue.org; P: 828-258-8737 ext. 218

Jan. 10, 2018

Macon County– On Tuesday, January 16, residents of Western North Carolina will have the opportunity to gather at the Macon County Courthouse in Franklin to voice their opinions about Duke Energy’s proposed rate hike. Duke Energy Carolinas, which serves 2.2 million customers across the state and much of Western North Carolina, has requested approval to raise residential energy rates by 16.7% and to increase their revenue by approximately $647 million. The rate hike is being requested soon after the company rose energy rates by 5% in 2013.

Public interest advocates call the request an attempt to pass Duke’s coal ash clean up costs to the public, which they say would discourage energy-saving measures and be especially harmful for low-income families. The North Carolina Utilities Commission, the body that decides whether or not to approve Duke’s request, will receive the public testimony.

The rate hike would increase a typical residential customer’s bill by $18.72 per month, and would raise energy bills for residential customers more than for industrial and commercial customers. The rate hike would also include a 66% increase of the base energy charge from $11.80 to $17.79, discouraging energy saving measures by customers.

“Working families in Western North Carolina know that when you’re struggling to pay the bills and the mortgage and to put food on the table, you learn to be careful about how you use electricity,” says Robert E. Smith, a former Board Chair of the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance. “But with Duke Energy’s new mandatory fee, all families would be charged a minimum of $17.79 per month – about $213 per year – even if they never turned their lights on.”

Public interest advocates believe this rate hike would leave residents of North Carolina’s far western counties, many of whom already face a harsh economic reality, with another unneeded financial burden. Counties including Jackson, Macon, Swain, Graham, Cherokee, and Clay have been named Tier 1 counties by the North Carolina Department of Commerce for 2018, meaning they face the highest level of economic distress in the state. According to the NC Department of Commerce’s 2018 County Tier Designations, Graham County has a median household income of less than $34,000, with 22% of families living below the poverty line. Swain County has a median family income of $36,103 and a 24.5% poverty rate, while Yancey County has a median household income of $36,418 with a 21.7% poverty rate.

Over half of Duke’s rate hike – a total of $336 million would be used to pay for the company’s coal ash cleanup costs. Before proposing the rate hike to the NC Utilities Commission, Duke sought to have these costs covered by its insurance provider, but was refused. Due to past actions, the insurance company stated that “Duke failed to take reasonable measures to avoid and/or mitigate the damage resulting from coal ash disposal.” In 2015, three Duke Energy companies including Duke Energy Carolinas plead guilty to nine criminal environmental violations for their failure to protect NC waterways from coal ash pollution. More recently, it was revealed that Duke was aware of the harms of coal ash beginning in the 1980’s, but did not begin to take precautions.

The NC Utilities Commission hearing will be held Tuesday, January 16 at 7 pm at the Macon County Courthouse located at 5 W. Main St. Courtroom A, Franklin, NC, 28734. Those who plan to speak should arrive at 6:30 pm.

MountainTrue is the oldest grassroots environmental non-profit in Western North Carolina. With offices in Hendersonville, Asheville, and Boone, we work in 23 counties to champion resilient forests, clean waters and healthy communities in our region. MountainTrue engages in policy advocacy at all levels of government, local project advocacy, and on-the-ground environmental restoration projects. Primary program areas include public lands, water quality, clean energy, land use/transportation, and citizen engagement. For more information: mountaintrue.org.

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Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue Defends Old-Growth Forest in Jackson County

MountainTrue Defends Old-Growth Forest in Jackson County

By Josh Kelly, Public Lands Field Biologist

On the steep, rocky slopes of Savannah Ridge in Jackson County, there is an ancient oak forest that has weathered centuries.

The oak trees are short and generally twisty; not worth much at the sawmill despite being hundreds of years old. These trees have stood, well-protected by the rugged terrain and their scant commercial value, even as the surrounding forests were logged in the early 20th century. Now, they are among the oldest and rarest trees in the Eastern United States.

Less than 0.6% of forests in the East qualify as old growth. In the Blue Ridge Mountains, we are blessed with a greater percentage, but still less than 5 percent. These old-growth forests hold a host of values: wildlife habitat, scientific information, undisturbed soils and genetics that have stood the test of time. Because these trees are so rare, so ecologically valuable and take hundreds of years to form, MountainTrue believes that existing old growth on public land should be protected from logging.

The Forest Service is not required by the current forest management plan to evaluate the old-growth condition of the stands they identify for timber sales. That’s where MountainTrue comes in. Our Public Lands staff reviews all timber projects in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests for the presence of old growth.

We had a victory in protecting old growth just this past year. The story begins in 2016, when the Mossy Oak timber sale was put forth for public comment. The Mossy Oak Project included 235 acres of proposed logging in 10 separate units spread out over 9,500 acres. Most of the project made sense in balancing ecological and economic considerations, and the logging was designed to benefit species like deer, grouse and golden-winged warbler. However, two of the units caught our eye. Unit 6 overlapped with an important natural area identified by the NC Natural Heritage Program, and Unit 7 – part of that same ancient oak forest on Savannah Ridge in Jackson County, with the short, twisty trees – looked like a potential site of old-growth forest.

It turns out that Forest Service records indicated that Unit 7’s trees are, on average, over 150 years old. To increase the size of the unit, eight low-value acres of the ancient forest had been packaged with eight acres of younger, higher value forest. Beginning in April 2016, MountainTrue notified the Forest Service that we had identified old growth in Unit 7 of the Mossy Oak Project.

Counting the rings from the core sample allowed us to determine that this tree is part of an ancient old-growth forest.

After over a year of input, a visit to the site with the Forest Service and a formal objection to the Forest Supervisor, the eight acres of ancient oak forest from Unit 7 are no longer on the chopping block. Instead, the Forest Service and MountainTrue will work together to protect and enhance the old-growth characteristics of this small but invaluable forest. We hope that in the future it will not require such persistence to protect old growth on public land, but if there’s one thing MountainTrue has in spades, it’s persistence and love of the land.

In that spirit, we are working to ensure that old-growth forest is far more than an afterthought in the new Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Management Plan, which is due to be drafted in early 2018. We’ll fight to make sure the new plan has language to make the protection of existing old-growth forest just as important as creating young forest habitat through logging.

 

Stay tuned: The future of our region’s ancient forests hangs in the balance.

Want to join our Forest Management Plan campaign? Sign up for updates and action opportunities at mountaintrue.org/get-involved.

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Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Read Board Chair Katie Breckheimer’s Article on the Southeast Regional Recycling Council Forum for Hendersonville Times-News Here!

Read Board Chair Katie Breckheimer’s Article on the Southeast Regional Recycling Council Forum for Hendersonville Times-News Here!

Dec. 6 2017

MountainTrue Board Chair and Recycling Team member Katie Breckheimer recently wrote an article for the Hendersonville Times-News on the Southeast Regional Council’s fall recycling forum. Check out Katie’s full piece here, and find out more about MountainTrue’s Recycling Team efforts here!


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Fires Creek Tract Acquired For Permanent Conservation In Nantahala National Forest!

Fires Creek Tract Acquired For Permanent Conservation In Nantahala National Forest!

Nov. 30, 2017

MountainTrue is thrilled to celebrate victory in a successful campaign to protect a 50-acre inholding within the Fires Creek watershed in Cherokee and Clay counties for permanent conservation as part of the Nantahala National Forest. We thank the Mainspring Conservation Trust and Fred and Alice Stanback for purchasing this stretch of forest, which will have a tremendous impact in protecting wildlife, water quality, recreation and wilderness in our public lands.

MountainTrue first joined the fight to preserve Fires Creek in 2008, after a proposal to build an access road within just a few feet of Fires Creek. The land, which had been privately owned, was the Fires Creek watershed’s only inholding – a term describing privately owned land inside the boundary of a national forest. The road construction would have required cutting into acid-bearing rock, a process that threatens water quality and has been shown to kill wildlife downstream. Our Public Lands Director & Ecologist, Bob Gale, expressed our opposition to the Forest Service. 

We spoke up again when the Forest Service was prepared to use a provision that did not apply to North Carolina – the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) – in order to build the road, and again when emergency funds that had been allocated following severe storm damage were illegally used to expand a road near Fires Creek. We lead educational trips to Fires Creek, meeting with the Forest Service’s Tusquitee District Ranger and the Roads Engineer of the project to express our concerns, and we made public comments at every stage of the Forest Service’s environmental review process.

This designation will preserve Fires Creek for pristine trout fishing by protecting waters in Laurel Creek and Fires Creek drainages from sediment and acid-producing rock pollution. It will restore the ridge line section of the popular Fires Creek Rim Trail, increase recreational opportunities so more people can enjoy the incredible forests we share, and protect Fires Creek for generations to come. As Bob Gale said recently in the Asheville Citizen-Times, “It’s a win-win for the environment, for ecology, recreation values, the economy, the contiguous ownership of the Forest Service and the protection of water quality.”

For full coverage of the Fires Creek victory in the Citizen-Times, click here.

Want to get involved in our upcoming Forest Management Plan to help us win more conservation victories? Sign up for action opportunities here.  


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Chris Joyell- Bio

Chris Joyell, Asheville Design Center Director

Chris has served as director of the Asheville Design Center (ADC) since 2009. The ADC, which merged with MountainTrue in 2017, connects volunteer designers—architects, engineers, landscape architects, planners, and graphic designers—with projects that promote healthy, vibrant, and equitable communities. Prior to his arrival in Western North Carolina, Chris worked with the Nature Conservancy, Connecticut River Watershed Council, and League of Conservation Voters. Chris is an attorney with degrees from Yale University and University of Connecticut School of Law.

Chris grew up in Connecticut and moved with his wife Nicole to Asheville in 2005. They now live in West Asheville with their border collie, Uli. Chris’s interests include running, hiking, fishing, and fantasy baseball.

phone 828.258.8737 x 205
envelope chris@ashevilledesigncenter.org


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Reconnect & Restore in the Mountains: A Retreat for Clergy

Nov. 27, 2018

The Creation Care Alliance and Wake Forest University School of Divinity bring you Reconnect & Restore in the Mountains: A Retreat for Clergy this Jan. 25 at Montreat Conference Center. Reserve your space today by filling out the form below.

 


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.