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Wednesday, 07 January 2009 13:58

Duke sues Jackson County for holding permits hostage

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Duke Energy filed a lawsuit against Jackson County and county Planning Director Linda Cable on Monday (Jan. 5) for failing to issue permits necessary for the removal of the Dillsboro dam.

Duke warned the county about a month ago that if the Land Development Compliance Permit and the Floodplain Development Permit were not issued within a month that further legal action would follow. Yet the county has continued to hold up the permits.

The state is requiring Duke to remove approximately 70,000 cubic yards of sediment backlogged behind the dam before tearing it down.

Duke already has state permits in hand for the dredging, but seems to need permits from the county as well. But the county refuses to grant them until an administrative appeal over tearing down the dam is resolved. It is unclear when the appeal may be resolved.

Duke believes the county is purposely delaying tearing down the dam. The county wants to save the dam and has been involved in a lengthy battle against Duke over the issue. (see article on page 8)

The lawsuit seeks damages in “excess of $10,000 for defendants’ illegal actions.”

The removal of the dam is required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Duke notes in the lawsuit.

“Jackson County’s actions are utterly without legal foundation and taken for an improper purpose in violation of plaintiff’s constitutional rights and have and will continue to cause the plaintiff damage,” the lawsuit states.

Duke has met all requirements for the permits, and the county’s withholding of them is arbitrary and capricious, according to the lawsuit.

And the county’s refusal to grant the permits violates the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution and the equal protection and law of the land clauses of the N.C. Constitution, the lawsuit states.

Duke Business Relations Manager Fred Alexander of Franklin said Duke does not believe it needs the permits but in an effort to be non-confrontational applied for them. Duke applied for the Land Development Compliance Permit in July and the Floodplain Permit in November.

The normal practice of the county is to issue the permits within one week, the lawsuit states.

Duke received a state permit from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources in June for the sediment dredging.

County Commission Chairman Brian McMahan had no comment on the lawsuit Monday, saying he had not read it.

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