Friday 24 May 2019

Conowingo Dam (18)

The Conowingo 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, 2018, 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. 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, supporting the State’s authority under the Clean Water Act.

In addition, Waterkeepers Chesapeake and the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association filed an administrative appeal on June 8, 2018, urging the Maryland Department of the Environment to reconsider its recent water quality certification for the Conowingo Dam, which is owned and operated by Exelon Corporation. Exelon has requested a new 50-year federal license to operate the dam, and, in order to receive that license, the State of Maryland must certify that the dam’s operations will not adversely impact water quality under the Clean Water Act.

Waterkeepers Chesapeake has been working with Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper and Earthjustice since 2014 to hold Exelon accountable for its fair share of the dam cleanup.

“This is our only opportunity in the next 50 years to get meaningful pollution reductions at Conowingo Dam – we have to hold Exelon accountable for its fair share of the cleanup,” -- Betsy Nicholas, Waterkeepers Chesapeake Executive Director. 

About the Conowingo Dam

Conowingo Dam is a hydroelectric dam that has been trapping sediment from the Susquehanna River, blocking fish passage, and affecting the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay since it was built in 1928. Nearly 200 million tons of sediment pollution have accumulated behind the dam. During major floods caused by large storms, powerful floodwaters can scoop out or “scour” the stored sediment behind the dam and send that downstream to the Chesapeake Bay. More info at http://www.conowingodam.org


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(Washington, D.C.)– President Trump’s executive order, issued today, changes the existing Clean Water Act’s 401 Water Quality Certification process that gives states the power to protect their waterways from federally licensed projects that could affect water quality.  Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake, released the following statement on how the executive order would affect federal permits and the current process to relicense the Conowingo Dam: “This executive order effectively hamstrings states from being able to protect their waterways and promote clean water. If implemented, the order would allow the federal government to effectively rubber stamp projects that would harm water quality, including pipelines and dam recertifications, and hamper states’ ability to install measures to reduce pollution. Some states, including Maryland, in the case of the relicensing of Conowingo Dam, have been using their authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to protect their communities and waterways from harmful projects approved by the federal government. This executive order would tip the scales in favor of corporations applying for these permits and strip states of their ability to hold them accountable for the pollution they cause. For Conowingo Dam, Exelon would be able to operate the dam for the next 50 years without needing to take any measures to protect the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay from pollution. This is unacceptable, and we look forward to seeing this executive order overturned in court.”  Media Contact: Betsy Nicholas, betsy(at)waterkeeperschesapeake.org, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, 202-423-0504 ### Waterkeepers Chesapeake is a coalition of eighteen independent Waterkeeper programs working…
By Aaron Zoellick, Waterkeepers Chesapeake Legal Intern As February drew to a close, Exelon initiated proceedings in an attempt to use a recent federal appeals court decision as a sword to hack its way through regulatory compliance and secure a 50-year license to operate the Conowingo Dam (Conowingo), all while continuing to side-step any responsibility for ongoing clean-up efforts. Exelon petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a Declaratory Order arguing that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) effectively waived its authority to issue a Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC) for the Conowingo in light of the Hoopa Valley decision.[1]  Exelon’s current license for the Conowingo expired in 2014. They have been operating the Conowingo on year-to-year renewals while seeking a new 50-year license from FERC.  Before the license can be granted, the state of Maryland is given the opportunity under Section 401 of the CWA to certify that the project will meet state water quality standards.  Shortly after submitting the WQC request, Exelon agreed to fund a three-year study to understand the impacts of sediment transport and withdrew their request.[2]  In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a 2017 Midpoint Assessment that concluded that it was necessary to reduce nutrient loads in the Susquehanna River by an additional six million pounds of nitrogen and 260,000 pounds of phosphorous per year.[3] Later that same year, after completing their own study, Exelon re-submitted their request to MDE for a WQC. MDE took into…
In a new petition, Exelon is seeking to operate dam without state license, which groups say would create dangerous precedent (Washington, D.C.) – Today, Waterkeepers Chesapeake and the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, represented by Earthjustice, filed a motion to intervene in a federal agency proceeding between the State of Maryland and Exelon Corporation over the relicensing of the Conowingo Dam. Through a new petition to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Exelon is seeking their 50-year license to operate the Conowingo without having to comply with the nutrient and sediment reductions called for by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) through the 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC) process; the groups are intervening to ensure this does not happen, which would create a dangerous precedent both in Maryland and across the country. “Once again, Exelon is clearly attempting to avoid any responsibility for the cleanup related to Conowingo,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “Exelon profits from operating the dam on the Susquehanna River, an important resource for so many people in our region. Their continued efforts to shirk responsibility for preventing pollution show they are not acting in the public’s interest.” Exelon owns and operates the dam. In order to receive a new 50-year federal license for the dam, the State of Maryland must certify that the dam’s operations will not adversely impact water quality under the Clean Water Act. In its petition, Exelon is relying on a recent decision in Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC, which…

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