Friday, March 13, 2009

Alcoa sues Stanly for records

In an interesting twist to an issue that has attracted a lot of attention statewide, attorneys for Alcoa Power Generating Inc. have filed a complaint asking the Superior Court to order Stanly County commissioners to produce public records the company has been seeking since last April -- and to order that the county pay the attorneys fees for filing the lawsuit.

It's an interesting twist especially because it was filed Thursday, just days before the annual Sunshine Week observance in North Carolina emphasizing the state's open government laws requiring open records and open meetings. It was filed by Raleigh lawyers Hugh Stevens and Amanda Martin, who had done much of the litigation in recent years to enforce open government laws.

Alcoa is seeking a reissue of a 50-year license to operate its hydroelectric generating plant on the Yadkin River. That plant provided the power for years for Alcoa's aluminum plant at Badin, and though the aluminum smelter has shut down. Alcoa continues to generate power. Stanly County Commissioners have worked with other groups to raise questions about the company's use and control of the water in the Yadkin basin, and have asked the state to intervene.

Gov. Bev Perdue, among others, has also questioned whether the company should retain control of the water when it no longer provides substantial employment in the area as it once did. "It's hard for me to understand how a company could own water rights to an entire river basin," Perdue told the Observer's Bruce Henderson recently.

A copy of Alcoa's complaint is available here.

Meanwhile, Stanly County has bitten back with this news release today:


Statement From The Stanly County Commissioners Regarding Bills Calling For Privilege Taxes To Compensate County And State For Yadkin Hydroelectric Project Operations

The Stanly County Board of Commissioners are aware of two new bills introduced in the General Assembly, Senate Bill 568 and Senate Bill 569, both sponsored by state Sen. Stan Bingham (R-Davidson) and co-sponsored by state Sen. Fletcher L. Hartsell, Jr. (R-Cabarrus), state Sen. William Purcell (D-Scotland) and state Sen. Daniel Clodfelter (D-Mecklenburg), which will provide substantial benefit to Stanly and Davidson Counties, if enacted. Senate Bill 568, which would establish a Stanly/Davidson Water Resource Privilege Tax, states that “A county may levy an annual privilege license tax on a business that withdraws from local water resources at least 10 million gallons of water a day. The determination of the amount of water withdrawn by a business is based on withdrawals in the fiscal year preceding the year for which the tax is imposed.” Senate Bill 569, which would create a Stanly/Davidson Limited Privilege Tax, states that “A county may levy an annual privilege license tax on a business that operates a facility that uses hydropower to produce electricity.”

In light of this proposed legislation, The Stanly County Board of Commissioners has released the following public statement:

We thank Senator Bingham and his co-sponsors, Senators Clodfelter, Hartsell, and Purcell, for introducing these two bills. We also thank Gov. Bev Perdue for her recent public statement that she is concerned about the federal relicensing proceeding for the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project, which includes four reservoirs, power plant sites and dams along the Yadkin River in Stanly, Davidson, Montgomery and Rowan counties in the Central Piedmont of North Carolina.

The legislation does not impose any taxes. The bills only provide Davidson and Stanly Counties the authority to vote on such a tax should it ever be required. If ever enacted, the revenues generated by the tax, would benefit North Carolina by providing relief from the economic burdens in two main areas:

1) Job loss – The funds would help alleviate the economic distress that arose when Alcoa closed its smelter in Stanly and stopped employing nearly 1,000 workers as it had promised to do when it received its first 50-year federal license for the Project in 1958. Alcoa chose to move these jobs to Iceland or other foreign countries and has no announced intention of bringing them back to Stanly or any other part of North Carolina.

2) Environmental damages – Alcoa Power Generating has acknowledged previously that cleaning up Badin Lake, a reservoir in the Project, will cost at least $25 million alone. The company has yet to say if, when and how it would clean up damages associated with its operations at the Project. The funds would help fund the necessary cleanup and provide better water if we are left holding the bag. Our taxpayers do not need to get stuck with this huge cleanup bill.

The potential revenues would help protect our North Carolina citizens for years to come from potential future expenses connected to the Project. Our fervent hope is that the license for the Yakin Project will be awarded to a State Trust for the benefit of all people of North Carolina. However, these two bills also provide the state with a backup “Plan B” if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) does not side with the countless number of office holders and North Carolina citizens in their strong opposition to APGI receiving a new license to own and use the waters of the Yadkin River to support 450 new jobs in Iceland or in other foreign countries.

We remain firmly committed in our belief that the State Trust Concept is the best long-term option of improving the environmental and economic benefits for Stanly County and the state, as it would go beyond what APGI promises in its relicensing application to correct contamination at the former smelter site and use power generated by the Project for the good of North Carolina consumers, rather than sold out of state at profit for the sole advantage of a multinational monopoly such as APGI, which is what currently exists.

We appreciate the efforts of all elected officials and environmental leaders on behalf of the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project during these last few years regarding its licensing. Their actions reflect a solid understanding of the needs of our state and local communities, as well as the value of protecting both the economic prosperity in our state and the public health of our North Carolina citizens.

9 comments:

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