Duke Energy's Western Carolinas Modernization project includes construction of a new substation off Interstate 26 near Campobello, S.C. Property owner Gracie Knie has filed suit, asking the company to submit more detailed plans — including how the company will protect designated wetlands on the nearly 200-acre property, which are indicated in blue.

Two South Carolina attorneys have filed a lawsuit calling on Duke Energy to release more details about a new substation it’s planning for a site near their home outside Campobello.

“We’re at ground zero,” homeowner and attorney Patrick Knie said, whose property would be located within 1,000 feet of a proposed substation. The substation is the starting point for about 45 miles of new transmission lines that will run to Asheville as part of Duke’s Western Carolinas Modernization project, he said.

“We’re asking for a temporary restraining order until we can get access to the property [and more information]. Show us the studies. Show us why [Duke] needs this,” Knie said.

The 550-kilovolt substation is planned for a nearly 200-acre site located near Interstate 26 and adjacent to an existing Duke transmission corridor. Company officials have said that, combined with system upgrades and new transmission lines, the entire project “will improve the connection between the Duke Energy Progress and Duke Energy Carolinas systems, allowing the company to import and export more affordable generation and increase the electric capacity to serve customers in the region.”

According to Duke Energy information, its regulated utilities business unit serves 7.3 million retail electric customers in six states. Duke says its investment in the transmission line system is estimated to reach $320 million.

MORE: Duke Energy unveils maps, plans for new transmission lines

Knie – who filed the lawsuit on behalf of his wife, Grace, who owns the home and 20-acre property they bought nine years ago “to get away from things” – said the couple is concerned about noise pollution, electromagnetic fields and environmental issues.

“There are designated wetlands on the [proposed substation site]. How will that be handled?” he asked. “And unfortunately, [the substation] is very close to … a neighbor of ours who owns a horse farm.”

Like nearly 4,000 property owners from Campobello to Asheville, the Knies received a letter informing them about the company’s plans. They attended several community meetings Duke Energy held in recent weeks about the project and reviewed maps and asked questions. But they weren’t satisfied with what they learned.

“They’ve got all the evidence and all the facts, and we’ve got nothing,” Knie said. “That’s why we filed.”

He contends that Duke has several years of research on the substation, including details about why other possible sites were dismissed.

Duke Energy spokesperson Tom Williams said that the company can’t comment on the litigation.

“We encourage property owners [and the public] to let us know their concerns. That’s what our focus is on,” he said.

Duke calculates that demand in the Asheville area has more than doubled in the last four decades. In May, the company announced that it will close the coal-fired plant at Asheville and build a new, bigger facility that’s fueled by natural gas.

Williams said the company is accepting public comment on its plans until Aug. 4 and might extend that deadline.

Have questions, comments?

Contact Duke Energy regarding the modernization project by email at WCTransmissionEnhancements@duke-energy.com or by calling toll-free at 888-238-0373.

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Margaret Williams is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press and is based in Asheville, N.C. Contact her at mvwilliams39@gmail.com.

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