Four Oaks fought off CSX, but new corporate foe looms - Duke Energy

FOUR OAKS, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Duke Energy considered a number of different options on where to build its new transmission lines. But when they picked the route through Four Oaks, they selected a neighborhood that does not want it and that knows how to fight.

"A whole new fight, a whole new struggle," is how Randy Johnson describes it.

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Johnson never removed his old "Say No to CSX" protest sign from the yard of his ranch. It's a reminder of his community's battle last year against the corporate giant's bid to build a massive container hub in Four Oaks. Johnson and his neighbors argued it would ruin their way of life in this quiet country town.

It was a battle they fought and won. Now, there's a new battle, a new corporate giant.

"I helped all these people save their property last year. And, now they're going to put a power line through it and ruin it," Johnson said, choking back tears.

Duke Energy plans to build an 11.5 mile long 230-kilovolt transmission line right through this neighborhood. It splits many properties in half and runs right through the Johnson's front yard.

"My daddy always said life isn't fair, but man it can be hard", said Johnson's wife, Casey, who helped lead the fight against CSX. "You can't help but be a little suspicious, is this connected? Are we being targeted because we did cause such a ruckus about not wanting it here?"

In a statement to ABC11, Duke Energy says, "This new infrastructure will provide greater capacity and enhanced service reliability for the Johnston County community and across the region."

The utility giant held two community meetings last November and sought community input by phone, email and through its website. But some neighbors say they were only notified two weeks ago.

"I didn't even know this substation was coming until I received this certified letter," said neighbor Dana Adams-Reaves.

Reaves' sister, Tracy, whom she shares family property with a mile away from the Johnsons, says she fears the transmission lines may cause health concerns. Duke insists the lines are perfectly safe.

"Well, I've done a little research; there's a lot of radiation coming off of them," Tracy Adams said.

Duke will have to compensate these neighbors for the use of their land. And the company says it plans to treat everyone "fairly and with respect."

The plan is not a done deal yet, however. Duke still needs approval from the state Utilities Commission. There's no date set for the hearing but these neighbors plan to be there in force.

And they plan to fight.

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