Stanly County Commissioners Commend Governor Perdue For FERC Filing
RALEIGH, N.C. – The Stanly County Board of Commissioners is commending Gov. Bev Perdue for filing evidence on September 18, 2009 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in opposition to a 50-year licensing renewal request by Alcoa Power Generating, Inc. (“Alcoa”) for the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project. Gov. Perdue believes the multinational firm is failing to address the economic, recreational, water quality and other environmental needs of North Carolina’s citizens. Her filing is the latest action she has taken demonstrating how Alcoa has failed to show its concern for the health, safety and welfare of the general public as it attempts to maintain a monopoly on water rights and hydroelectric power generated by the Project, which includes dams and powerhouses along a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River at High Rock, Tuckertown, Narrows and Falls Reservoirs in Davidson, Rowan, Montgomery and Stanly counties.
Gov. Perdue’s latest filing at FERC includes a business plan developed by the N.C. Department of Commerce entitled “THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA’S 21ST CENTURY PLAN FOR THE USE OF THE YADKIN RIVER RESOURCES.” This study concludes that contrary to Alcoa’s claims, the state’s recapture of its water rights for the Project is economically feasible and financially beneficial to the State of North Carolina. According to the business plan the State will manage the Yadkin River resources for the public good and to demonstrate the State’s ability to manage this resource by:
1. Providing sound stewardship of this crucial and valuable public resource and fiscally prudent operation and maintenance of both the water resources of the Yadkin River and the hydroelectric plant facilities.
2. Allocating a portion of the Project revenues for timely capital improvements to the Project that will enhance the quality of the Yadkin River waters and production from the outmoded plant facilities, and assure access of citizens to potable water, even during severe droughts.
3. Dedicating a portion of the annual revenues to funding long-term, ongoing programs that enhance the infrastructure of the region and the State, including enhancement and sustained funding of our community college system.
4. Dedicating a portion of the annual revenues to fund local improvements near the Project, whether environmental, public health, or recreational, with input from local communities and agencies.
5. Providing funds for long-term, comprehensive planning for the Yadkin River Basin, to accommodate changing public beneficial needs, and that will provide the State with the flexibility to act promptly to meet public needs relating to water supply and the management of the Yadkin River.
6. Providing a model for operating the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project efficiently and in a business-like fashion with value flowing back into publicly valuable infrastructure for the State.
Governor Perdue has been an ardent critic of Alcoa’s proposed relicensing based on economic and environmental concerns. In a letter to the FERC dated June 3, 2008, when she was lieutenant governor, she requested a delay by the commission not to grant the license by noting that “the balance of private versus public benefit associated with operation of the dams in these communities is now significantly different than it was when the dams were first licensed” to Alcoa in 1958. In March of this year she announced her intentions to seek intervention at FERC while noting that Alcoa forced hundreds of North Carolinians out of work when it closed its smelter at Badin in 2002, despite saying in its 1958 licensing it would keep those jobs as part of its oversight of the Project. Eight members of the N.C. congressional delegation followed the governor’s lead and wrote to FERC requesting that she be allowed sufficient time to present new evidence showing why Alcoa’s application for a 50-year license for the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project should be denied,
On May 20, Gov. Perdue filed a “friend of the court” brief requesting that Administrative Law Judge Joe Webster grant an injunction barring the issuance of a 401 Water Quality Certification to Alcoa for the Project. Alcoa must obtain the state certification in order to receive a license from FERC. Special Deputy Attorney General Faison Hicks spoke on behalf of Gov. Perdue and told Judge Webster that in the governor’s view, Stanly County’s petition for the injunction “has raised questions going directly to the welfare of our environment, the life of the Yadkin River and, ultimately, the health and safety of the people of this state” that need to be addressed before Alcoa received the certification. Judge Webster agreed and ruled May 26 to deny granting Alcoa the permit until a full appeal is heard from both sides of the matter.
If Alcoa receives the FERC license, it will have an exclusive monopoly on water rights to conduct hydroelectric operations on the Yadkin River for another 50 years, and the opportunity to make many millions in profits selling electricity generated from waters belonging to North Carolina citizens. Unlike other companies that generate electricity in North Carolina, Alcoa is not regulated by the N.C. Utilities Commission, and sells its electricity on the wholesale market rather than to N.C. customers.
The Stanly County Board of Commissioners have been strong opponents of allowing Alcoa to continue its monopoly of the Project because of Alcoa’s poor environmental history with its operation on the Yadkin River, the abandonment of operations by Alcoa at the Badin Works with its related loss of 1,000 jobs and the right of the people to control the water that belongs to them. Many other official groups have endorsed this position, including most recently the State Executive Committee of the North Carolina Democratic Party, which passed a resolution in support of the state recapturing the water rights for the Project on Aug. 29.
“Once again, the Stanly County Board of Commissioners is deeply indebted to Gov. Bev Perdue as she continues to fight the good fight for our water rights,” said Stanly County Commissioner Lindsey Dunevant. “The governor has been able to see the truth of this issue amid all the spin provided by Alcoa and knows she is pursuing the best option for the state in the long run for its economic and environmental future.”
About This Effort:
In 1958, Alcoa, the world’s leading producer of primary aluminum, secured a federal hydroelectric license for the Yadkin Project on the Yadkin River in Stanly, Davidson, Montgomery and Rowan Counties in the Central Piedmont. In return, Alcoa promised aluminum manufacturing jobs for Stanly County for years to come. Alcoa has now essentially disappeared as a major employer in the region and shut down its manufacturing plants, but it wants to continue reaping the benefits of the Yadkin River after its license expires in April of this year. In addition, Alcoa discharged hazardous pollutants into North Carolina air and waterways for decades while harvesting immense profits from the Yadkin River, but has yet to finish cleaning up that contamination. It has filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to obtain another 50-year license. If Alcoa is successful, one of North Carolina’s most valuable water resources will be used to maximize Alcoa’s profits, instead of being used to benefit the people of North Carolina, who themselves are in dire need of affordable electricity, local economic development, and clean, adequate drinking water.