Yadkin Riverkeeper and Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic Petition to Reopen Relicensing Proceedings at FERC

Today the Yadkin Riverkeeper is joining New Energy Capital Partners and the State of North Carolina in asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reopen the licensing proceedings for Alcoa’s Yadkin Hydroelectric Project.  The Riverkeeper submitted a petition to FERC asking the Commission to reopen proceedings for a simple reason: up to now, FERC Staff have failed to investigate and evaluate the proposed Yadkin Project’s negative economic and pollution effects on the Yadkin River Basin.  Reopening the Proceedings to allow New Energy Capital Partners to make its proposal allows everyone to see which proposal is better for everyone.

By law, FERC’s mission is to protect and serve the public interest by granting licenses only for projects that serve that public interest. The commission has a duty to investigate and evaluate all the pollution impacts of the Badin Plant and the economic impacts of its closure. FERC staff  have not protected the public’s interest in clean water and land.   The Final Environmental Impact Statement is erroneous and outdated.  Over the past three years students working under Director Ryke Longest at the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic have documented these problems which support the Petition filed today.

FERC’s application review process has ignored the fact that Alcoa closed its Badin Aluminum Smelter in 2010 and outsourced hundreds of those jobs overseas to Iceland and Saudi Arabia. FERC staff, however, never considered the impact of those job losses when assessing Alcoa’s application.  Eliminating local jobs is bad enough, but allowing Alcoa to gain control of the Yadkin River for another fifty years is even worse.

Alcoa’s closure of the Badin aluminum smelter parallels its downsizing strategy at other domestic locations. Last year Alcoa sold the FERC license to its dams at Tapoco in North Carolina and Tennessee to Brookfield Investments for $600 million. Alcoa’s proposal for the Yadkin Project offers the public little to nothing by generating unregulated electricity for wholesale profit. It is time to give another company a chance to compete with Alcoa.

For this reason, the Riverkeeper is also asking that FERC reopen proceedings to consider a new applicant and a new proposal. New Energy Capital Partners asked FERC to reopen its proceedings so it could make an offer to the state in late April.  Last week, the State of North Carolina asked FERC to restart the licensing proceedings, which would allow NEC to file an application.  Competition is a good thing and this is a case where we need to see which company will do right by North Carolina by letting the projects compete.

All of the application processes’ shortcomings can be remedied by reopening the proceedings and requiring that FERC staff investigate and evaluate the public interest instead of trotting out its outdated and defective FEIS.

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Today the Riverkeeper’s annual Tour de Yadkin will take paddlers across the Yadkin River Basin’s High Rock Lake, launching from York Hill and ending at the Tamarac Marina.  Both the US EPA and State of North Carolina have classified High Rock Lake as an impaired water source under the Clean Water Act. High Rock Lake is part of the Yadkin Project. 

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