Following a request by Sen. Stan Bingham (R-Davidson) and Yadkin Riverkeeper® Dean Naujoks, N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall has officially launched an investigation of whether Larry Jones, president of the High Rock Lake Association (HRLA), lobbied illegally for Alcoa in the General Assembly in order to block legislation that would hold Alcoa accountable for its poor stewardship of the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project, which the firm wants to control for another 50 years. Marshall has named John Lynch, a special agent with her office’s lobbying compliance division, as lead investigator of the charges that Jones violated state law last year when he lobbied for Alcoa without being registered by the state, while at the same time the firm conveyed 2.5 acres of waterfront property to Jones.
Jones met with legislators in their offices last summer prior to the transaction’s completion to defend Alcoa’s management of the Project, even though the firm’s operations have been linked to multiple contaminants in the Yadkin River, including cancer-causing PCBs in Badin Lake, a reservoir that is part of the Project. Sen. Bingham and Naujoks believe the transfer represents an agreement that occurred when Jones was not a registered lobbyist, and that Jones should be barred from lobbying by the state if found in violation.
Sen. Bingham and Naujoks also have requested Marshall’s office to investigate missing records that would indicate whether Jones failed to file a registration statement or fee as well as a quarterly expense report, as required by state lobbying laws while receiving the deal, and whether taxes were paid when the property was conveyed to Jones from Alcoa.
"This at the very least gives the appearance of a conflict of interest for Larry Jones and his leadership position at HRLA," said Naujoks. "Why did he receive this land deal from Alcoa while at the same time he stated he represented the best interests of the HRLA? Since the HRLA will fare better economically and environmentally with the Yadkin River Trust legislation now under consideration than under Alcoa’s operation of the Project, only he will benefit in this situation."
Naujoks added, "Alcoa and the HRLA both must publicly address this situation. These serious questions need answers for HRLA members and the citizens of North Carolina. Jones’ actions have jeopardized our future supply and quality of water from the Yadkin solely to benefit himself and Alcoa."
For years Jones as leader of the HRLA had opposed Alcoa for its refusal to improve the Yadkin River’s water quality while it monopolized and exploit the Project’s dams for their hydropower sold mostly out of state on the electrical grid for tens of millions in profit annually. He flip-flopped in 2007 to support Alcoa’s efforts for another 50-year license to oversee the Project, which must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to take effect.
The licensing process is on hold because a N.C. administrative law judge issued a stay in 2009 blocking the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources from granting a 401 Water Quality Certification to Alcoa for the Project due to environmental concerns raised by the Yadkin Riverkeeper and Stanly County Commissioners. Alcoa needs the certification in order to proceed with its FERC application.
After the stay occurred, the General Assembly considered the adoption of SB 967, which would have created a Yadkin River Trust to oversee the operations of the Project and provided funding for water quality improvements in the Yadkin River while returning control of the Yadkin to its rightful owners – the citizens of North Carolina. Jones lobbied against SB 967 strongly despite its benefits for High Rock Lake. He spent dozens of hours to spread what Naujoks believes is misinformation about SB 967 to legislators in order to block its passage and preserve Alcoa’s efforts to maintain a monopoly over the Project, as well as hold up his obligations for receiving property from the firm.
Alcoa conveyed three tracts in Rowan County totaling approximately 2.5 acres to Jones and his wife on Oct. 20, 2009, a fact that did not become public record until three months later. After Jones told Naujoks "It is a non-issue," Naujoks contacted Sen. Bingham, who shared Naujoks’ concern about possible violations, and they sent a letter on March 22 requesting a formal state investigation. Naujoks has sent Alcoa a copy of that letter for the company’s records.
Lynch, the lead investigator, filed a statement in 2009 charging former lobbyist Don Beason with "a pattern of under reporting of the lobbyist compensation." Beason resigned in 2007 following the news that he had loaned disgraced former House Speaker Jim Black $500,000.
"We are confident Mr. Lynch will be able to determine the legality of this lobbying relationship between Jones and Alcoa," Naujoks said. "Likewise, we believe Secretary Marshall’s office will recommend the appropriate punishment should Jones be found guilty in this matter."
About Yadkin Riverkeeper®:
Yadkin Riverkeeper’s mission is to respect, protect and improve the Yadkin Pee Dee River Basin through education, advocacy and action. It is aimed at creating a clean and healthy river that sustains life and is cherished by its people. To achieve this vision, it seeks to accomplish the following objectives: sustain a RIVERKEEPER® program, measurably improve water quality, reestablish native bio-diversity, preserve and enhance the forest canopy, bring legal action to enforce state and federal environmental laws, and teach and practice a "river ethic" of ecological respect to all ages. For more information, visit http://www.yadkinriverkeeper.org or call 336-837-7669.
About Dean Naujoks:
Dean Naujoks is the Yadkin Riverkeeper, employed by Yadkin Riverkeeper Inc. since the fall of 2008 to manage and implement a river advocacy program for the Yadkin Pee Dee River watershed in North Carolina that will keep it a healthy and vibrant river for residents and businesses in the long term. Yadkin Riverkeeper is a licensed member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, which connects and supports local Waterkeeper programs to provide a voice and champion clean water for waterways and their communities worldwide. A longtime water quality advocate, Naujoks became the first Upper Neuse Riverkeeper in 2001 at the nonprofit Neuse River Foundation. His job there was to monitor conditions and advocate for protection of the Neuse River from Falls Lake to Goldsboro. He was appointed by Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker to serve on the joint government PCB Task Force to address PCB contamination in Crabtree Creek from Ward Transformer. A graduate of N.C. State, Naujoks created his own major in environmental policy and sustainable development. He also worked for the NC Wildlife Federation from 1991-1999. Naujoks received American Rivers’ 2009 National "River Hero" Award on behalf of his efforts.
State Launches Investigation of Alcoa and High Rock Lake Association President Larry Jones For Lobby
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