One day a couple of weeks ago, French Broad Electric Membership Corporation arrived to spray the right-of-way for the power lines with a toxic mix of chemicals produced by everyone’s favorite corporation, Monsanto.

We were expecting this and, in anticipation of it, had posted “no spraying” signs in English and Spanish around the targeted portion of our land. Our thinking was to stall the process, hoping an early freeze might solve the problem. But that wasn’t to be and we were faced, as is every homeowner who contracts for electricity with FBEMC, with allowing them to spray the right-of-way, or clearing our 50’ x 500’ swath of head-high briars ourselves by hand, or by goat. FBEMC, by right of eminent domain, can do whatever they deem necessary to clear right-of-way under power lines. Up until three years ago, clearing was done by hand by FBEMC when, in an effort to save money, the company switched to chemicals.


The arrival of electricity to small mountain communities, as late as the 1950s and 1960s in some places, was a culture-changing event and it significantly altered people’s lives and lifestyles. Few of us could get by for very long without electricity - I know I wouldn’t be writing this blog without it. And I think French Broach Electric does a reasonably good job of keeping us supplied with a steady and reliable source of power. Part of that reliability comes from keeping the right-of-way cleared and to that end I have no problem with cutting problem trees and overhanging limbs.

But I have a problem with chemicals. Annually in the United States, we apply over 500 million pounds of herbicides to our land. Most of these poisons are considered endocrine inhibitors by the EPA, which means they alter the reproductive systems of animals and invertebrates, not to mention what they do to plants. These poisons ultimately end up in our streams, creeks, and rivers; they drift over our crops; and they imprint brown, sterilized swaths onto our verdant green landscape. It looks atrocious and reminds me of a piece of mountain wisdom about fouling your own nest.


I, and I suspect many of my neighbors, have a problem with anyone claiming the legal right to poison land we’ve spent decades nurturing and stewarding. Eminent Domain is supposed to be for the good of the community and I simply don’t understand the good in spreading a blanket of chemicals over our landscape.