North Carolina House rejects state move to take over 210-MW Yadkin

The North Carolina House has sounded rejected an attempt by the state to take over the 210-MW Yadkin hydroelectric project operated by Alcoa Power Generating on North Carolina’s Yadkin River.

The House voted Aug. 6, 2009, to reject, 66-39, a Senate-passed bill that would have created a Yadkin River Trust to operate the hydro project on behalf of the state, if North Carolina were successful in wresting control of the project from Alcoa.

On April 1, the state filed a motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on behalf of Gov. Beverly Perdue, seeking to intervene late in Yadkin’s relicensing proceedings. (HydroWorld 4/7/09) The motion argued Alcoa closed its Badin, N.C., aluminum smelter, which had been powered by Yadkin. North Carolina seeks federal takeover of the hydro project to allow the state to assume control of the project.

In a flurry of activity in the closing days of the legislative session, a House committee rejected Senate Bill 967 on July 28, then resurrected it and endorsed it for passage Aug. 5. The bill then was heard twice Aug. 6 by another House committee, which endorsed it at a hastily called meeting. The measure then bypassed the House Finance Committee and was sent to the House floor for action.

It was reported the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Concord, had been maneuvering for quick passage of the bill in both houses, including amending the language of S.B. 967 into another House bill to help ensure its passage before the Legislature adjourned.

Alcoa spokesman Gene Ellis expressed thanks to lawmakers for supporting Alcoa’s fight against state takeover.

“Legislators sent a clear message that they do not support the taking of private business,” Ellis said on the Alcoa website. “The more they learned about this issue, it became evident that passing this legislation would set a dangerous precedent for North Carolina.”

Alcoa previously said seizure of Yadkin (No. 2197) would result in millions of dollars in costs to North Carolina, including $240 million required to improve water quality and maintain and upgrade dams and the project’s four powerhouses.

Beginning in 1915, Alcoa invested $80 million in private money to purchase more than 38,000 acres of land along the Yadkin River in central North Carolina and to develop four dams and powerhouses. Alcoa has operated the project under a federal license since 1958. The license now is up for renewal. Federal regulators are considering Alcoa’s application for a 50-year relicense.

Alcoa’s original license expired April 30, 2008. The project, which features the 31-MW Yadkin Falls, 108-MW Narrows, 38-MW Tuckertown, and 33-MW High Rock developments, is operating under a temporary annual license.

Alcoa needs water quality certification under Clean Water Act Section 401 from the North Carolina Division of Water Quality along with a relicense order from FERC to continue to operate the project. The Division of Water Quality’s decision was delayed by a study that prompted further water quality tests in Badin Lake.

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