In order to proceed with the plan, the company needed to obtain a conditional-use permit from the board, which rejected Progress' request. (In this photo, opponents of the plant applaud the decision.)
The decision can be challenged in court if Progress decides to pursue such a course. In the meantime, the company holds a 50-year lease on 78 acres of Buncombe County property, with options to renew for an additional 30 years. The lease also permits the company to store coal ash from its Skyland power-generation station on land on the banks of the French Broad River. While the parcel is part of the property originally set aside for a landfill, it was never used and officials with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources told Xpress that they place no restrictions on its use, other than maintaining access to test wells located there. DENR is the agency charged with licensing and regulating sanitary landfills in the state.
Several local activist groups — People Advocating Real Conservancy, the Mountain Voices Alliance, the Canary Coalition and Save Our Slopes — will hold a press conference at 3 p.m. today, April 3, in front of the Buncombe County Courthouse to challenge the legality of the lease and the process by which it was awarded. Investigation by the Canary Coalition has led to release of the air-quality permit application Progress Energy filed with the town of Woodfin. According to the group's executive director, Avram Friedman, “The permit includes a lease option agreement between Buncombe County and Progress Energy signed by [Buncombe County Manager] Wanda Greene in March 2005.” Friedman asked, “When was the public meeting at which that agreement was authorized by the Board of Commissioners?” (See "What price Progress?" March 7, Xpress).
— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer
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