Saturday 19 January 2019

Conowingo Dam (12)

Environmental Organizations point to dam release as reason to hold Exelon Corporation accountable during dam relicensing (Baltimore, Md.) – Boaters, commercial watermen and shoreline communities are coping with large amounts of trash and debris in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal waterways, a result of powerful floodwaters from last week’s storms. Large piles of woody debris, plastic and other floating debris are evident on many shorelines on the Western Shore of Maryland. Environmentalists say that the debris is only one visible part of the slug of pollution that entered the Bay when the Conowingo Dam opened 20 flood gates last week in response to several days of heavy rain upstream of the dam. “The floating debris littering the Chesapeake Bay is like the tip of an iceberg,” said Ted Evgeniadis, Lower Suquehanna Riverkeeper. “We see the debris because it floats, but underneath that is more pollution. And if the floodwaters were powerful enough to send all that trash downstream, imagine how much sediment pollution came with it. Unfortunately, that’s going to have a lasting impact on Bay water quality.” Exelon Corporation owns and operates the dam for profit. Exelon is seeking a new 50-year license to operate the dam, but under federal law it needs the State of Maryland to certify that the dam operations will meet state water quality standards. Maryland issued its Water Quality Certification on April 27 and Exelon sued the State on May 25 in federal district court, challenging the state’s authority to require any pollution reduction from…
On July 20, Waterkeepers Chesapeake and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, represented by Earthjustice, filed a motion to intervene in a federal court action regarding the relicensing of the Conowingo Dam. The dam is owned and operated by Exelon Generation Company, LLC and its current license expired in 2014. Exelon is seeking a new 50-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, the State of Maryland must issue a Water Quality Certification, certifying that the project will meet state water quality standards before FERC can grant a new license. The State of Maryland issued its Water Quality Certification on April 27 and Exelon sued the State on May 25 in federal district court, challenging the state’s authority to require any pollution reduction from upstream sources. Waterkeepers Chesapeake and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper filed to intervene in this case, supporting the State’s authority under the Clean Water Act. “The Water Quality Certification for Conowingo Dam is critical for not only the Susquehanna River, but for the entire Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “Exelon is seeking to disarm the State of one of its key tools to protect water quality in this relicensing process. While we feel that Maryland’s certification is missing some key elements, we absolutely support states’ authority to protect water quality and require power companies to reduce pollution from the operation of their dams. In its lawsuit, Exelon is essentially seeking to dodge the Clean Water Act and shirk its…

Exelon Made a Bad Choice

Exelon's challenge of the 401 Water Quality Certification is unfortunate, but not unexpected. From the start of the dam relicensing process back in 2012, Exelon has demonstrated that they would rather pay lawyers to fight to avoid responsibility, rather than investing in protect the nation's largest estuary -- the Chesapeake Bay. Throughout this process, the State of Maryland, and other federal parties, have had to continually push Exelon to provide even the most basic of information on environmental studies and impacts of dam operations, which are essential to making informed decisions about water quality conditions for the 50-year dam operating license. Exelon has profited billions from this public resource and has a guaranteed profit as long as the Susquehanna River flows for the next 50 years. President Teddy Roosevelt fought for decades to create the Federal Power Act (1919) so that corporations profiting from a public resource were required to provide public benefits. Cleaning up the Bay is an agreed upon bipartisan goal that benefits millions of people in the region. Under the Federal Power Act, we the citizens are providing an exclusive right for a for-profit corporation to have exclusive use of a public river - the Susquehanna - for power generation. In order for this exclusive license to be granted, Exelon must meet a significant burden, including showing the impacted state, here Maryland, that all impacts to state water quality will be addressed through conditions on this license. The sediment that has been building up behind the dam,…


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