Conowingo Dam relicensed by FERC, Exelon Let Off The Hook

Today, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Exelon Corporation’s Conowingo relicensing for the next 50 years. This license will include the extremely flawed 2019 settlement agreement between the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and Exelon, owner of the dam. In the agreement, the State of Maryland waives its authority under the Clean Water Act to require a Water Quality Certification for the relicensing of Conowingo Dam. This certification was the only hope for the State of Maryland to make sure Exelon paid its fair share over the next 50 YEARS!

“Exelon, the largest and most profitable utility company in the United States, will not be held accountable for its fair share to mitigate its operations at the Conowingo Dam. The Lower Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay will suffer because of today’s decision”, said Ted Evgeniadis.

This decision leaves Bay state taxpayers responsible for paying for the dam cleanup instead of requiring Exelon to pay its fair share. The Water Quality Certification that MDE issued in 2018 required $172 million per year just to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The actual cost of meaningfully reducing the 200 million tons of nutrients and sediment behind the dam was estimated to be between $53 – $300 million per year in the recent Conowingo Dam Watershed Implementation Plan.

“This is just another example of corporate welfare where taxpayers bear the burden of cleaning up after corporations,” added Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “Further, if Exelon were simply to reduce by 50% the bonuses, not salaries, paid to their top six employees, that alone would generate more than 10 times what they will be paying in this license for the next 50 years.”

In this settlement and license issuance that FERC approved today, Exelon is only responsible for paying less than one percent of what was required under the 401 certification.

“A river’s function is to transport sediment, that’s simple science,” said Ted Evgeniadis, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper. “When there is a 98-foot-tall structure working to trap an enormous amount of nutrients and sediment — essentially a ticking time bomb — the next large storm will deliver that pollution at exacerbated rates downstream, causing algal blooms and habitat loss that kill aquatic species essential to Maryland’s seafood economy and impact drinking water sources. This relicensing agreement tragically fails to address the dangers the dam presents to water quality and to our livelihoods.”

FERC’s decision will have profound impacts in Maryland and across the country. Exelon will be given a 50-year license to operate the Conowingo Dam without having to comply with the nutrient and sediment reductions called for by MDE. But, it’s not over yet! Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper and partners will be challenging this decision made today.  

Our fight will continue to guarantee a fair and just resolution for the clean up of the pollution at Conowingo Dam. And we will need your help. 

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!

Please consider a donation to support our efforts.

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