Judge rules in favor of Alcoa, state must act in 30 days

Published 12:06 pm Tuesday, June 2, 2015

An administrative law judge has ruled that the state of North Carolina must make a decision on Alcoa Power Generating’s request for a water quality certificate before the end of June.

In an ruling issued last week, Administrative Law Judge Selina Brooks reversed a decision by the Division of Water Resources to deny a water quality certificate, which is required in order for the company to renew its operating license. The Division of Water Resources denied Alcoa’s request for a permit in August 2013, shortly after the state filed a case in Wake County Superior Court. The case, brought by state government, questioned Alcoa’s ownership of the property beneath its dams.

In the order, Brooks said: “there appears to be no factual dispute that (Alcoa) satisfied the substantive requirements for issuance of a water quality certification.”

Alcoa Power Generating relicensing manager Ray Barham said the administrative judge’s ruling reflects what the company has always known.

“The Division of Water Resources had no legitimate grounds to deny our water quality certificate,” Barham said. “We urge the agency to follow its rules and act quickly to issue a water quality certificate for the Yadkin Project.”

Barham said the state’s denial wasn’t related to the water quality of the Yadkin River.

“We have a proven plan in place to improve water quality and ensure compliance with the state’s water quality standards,” he said.

The Yadkin Riverkeeper, however, has expressed concerns about river quality. Riverkeeper Will Scott specifically has concerns about Badin Works — a shuttered aluminum production facility in Stanly County.

“The hazardous waste site now sits mostly vacant, behind a high fence,” Scott said in a May email to the Salisbury Post. “Cyanide pollution continues to be discharged into Badin Lake and Mountain Creek to the present day.”

North Carolina must issue a water quality certificate before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can issue a long-term operating license to Alcoa. With the lawsuit between state government and Alcoa still pending, the company has been stalled in its efforts to renew its operating license.

Prior to Brooks’ ruling, a North Carolina Eastern District Judge ruled that boats couldn’t navigate the Yadkin River when North Carolina became a state.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246