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by Keith Barber

JUDGE DENIES STANLY COUNTY,RIVERKEEPER PETITION IN ALCOA CASE

Administrative Law Judge Joe L. Webster denied a petition for summary judgment filed by Stanly County and the Yadkin Riverkeeper against the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or DENR, and Alcoa Power Generating, on Sept. 15.

“Based upon the evidence presented it appears that multiple material and factual issues are in dispute,” Webster stated.

Discrepancies in material facts when applied to the standard of review for summary judgment mean that a hearing on the merits is required.

The hearing is set to begin on Sept. 27 in Raleigh. Dean Naujoks, the Yadkin Riverkeeper, said the thrust of his case is that DENR’s Division of Water Quality did not exercise the full scope of its authority under the Clean Water Act when issuing a 401 water quality certification permit to Alcoa last year. The aluminum giant is seeking the permit as part of its re-licensing efforts to retain control over a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River that includes four hydroelectric dams at the High Rock, Tuckertown, Narrows and Falls reservoirs.

Alcoa shuttered its Badin Works aluminum smelting facility at Badin Lake in 2007, leaving behind a toxic legacy, Naujoks said.

“Alcoa’s been saying that the aluminum production should be kept separate from the hydropower operations,” he added. “What we’re saying is, ‘If PCB’s are passing through the hydroelectric dams, any pollutants passing through the dam operation could and should be addressed through the 401 water quality certification permit. If we don’t address it now, it’ll be another 50 years before we can address it again.”

Charles D. Case, a lawyer for Alcoa, argued during a Sept. 10 hearing that the four hydroelectric dams do not have a significant environmental impact on the area and many state environmental regulations do not apply to the project because it is not new construction.

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