Alcoa Fights North Carolina’s Push to Control Yadkin Hydroelectric Dams

Alcoa Power Generating (APGI) has countered North Carolina’s alleged efforts to seize its privately owned hydropower business along the Yadkin River by filing a formal response with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The subsidiary of the largest U.S. aluminum producer had asked the state to renew its expired 50-year license to operate four hydroelectric dams on reservoirs along a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River. But the state had gone so far as to make an “unprecedented” effort to take over its business, APGI said on Tuesday.

Specifically, the company was responding to a motion filed with FERC by North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue that asked the agency to deny APGI another 50-year license to control dams on the Yadkin River because the aluminum company’s business interest could conflict with the state’s need for drinking water next time there was a drought. But APGI said on Tuesday that the governor had also asked FERC “to ignore long-standing and regulations, disregard the findings of the state’s own environmental agencies and deny APGI a new federal license to continue generating clean, renewable energy.”

In a response to FERC, APGI said that the governor’s filing was an “an amalgamation of factual misstatements and legal arguments that are inventive in the extreme.”

“Purporting to request that the Commission consider federal takeover of the Yadkin Project, in fact the Governor’s September 18th Filing seeks a state take over of the Project, using the federal government as a shill and running roughshod over 90 years of Federal Power Act (“FPA”) jurisprudence, not to mention the Commission’s regulations and the law of this case.”

“We hope that FERC will uphold the intent of the Federal Power Act and promptly reject Gov. Perdue’s effort to circumvent the law and take our property,” said Rick Bowen, president of Alcoa’s energy operations.

The company said that the governor “conveniently omitted or purposefully distorted Alcoa’s history of responsible environmental stewardship and community support,” and that the accusation was made without facts. The most glaring inaccuracies involved a misinterpretation of Alcoa’s environmental record and flawed financial projections that “grossly underestimate” how much it would cost the State of North Carolina to acquire and operate the Yadkin Project, APGI said.

APGI said that the governor had also claimed that pollutants from former industrial operations at the Badin Works site remain a threat to human health and environment, even though the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources had said that the sites do not pose a threat to public health or the environment. “The company is committed to continue testing and monitoring these sites and is legally bound to make sure they don’t create any environmental concerns in the future,” it said.

The Yadkin Project, one of 22 privately owned hydropower projects in North Carolina, is licensed by FERC. The Yadkin Project received a 50-year license in 1958 to power an aluminum smelter in Stanley County. That plant is now closed, and the company sells the electricity it generates. APGI began the relicensing process in 2002.

Sources: APGI, FERC

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