Stanly County Commissioners Dispute Alcoa’s April 21 News Release Alleging FERC’s Support Of New Lic

Published: Wed Apr 23 2008

The Stanly County Board of Commissioners are publicly disputing a news release published by Alcoa on Monday, April 21, 2008, wherein the private multinational corporation alleges that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) supports a new 50-year license for Alcoa to oversee operation of the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project, allowing control and sustained ownership of water flowing from the Yadkin River. The Stanly County Commissioners state that the FERC’s issuing of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on for the Yadkin Project on Friday, April 18 was an expected preliminary step moving forward, and by no means represents the FERC’s final decision or even an impending action taken concerning whether or not to relicense the water resources of the Yadkin River to Alcoa. County officials claim that Alcoa’s April 21 news release was a strategically placed effort to discourage individuals seeking accurate information on the relicensing process, as well as those inquiring what is in the best interests for the citizens of the Yadkin Valley and the State of North Carolina.

To clarify the relicensing process, Stanly County Commissioners point out that the final decision on the relicensing will be ultimately determined as federal ordinances or policies when, and only when, the FERC Commissioners vote. The April 18 FEIS issued by FERC was simply a federal staff recommendation, and not a ruling constituting final action by the Commission.

According to the Stanly County Government, the Final Environmental Impact Statement is virtually the same report made in December 2007, which Stanly County Commissioners publicly disputed. On Dec. 17, 2007, Stanly County Commissioners made a federal filing to protect the concerns of its 60,000 citizens by urging the FERC to prepare a supplemental Draft EIS or to hold a hearing to address the environmental concerns that were inadequately addressed. According to the county’s filing, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) fell short of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and failed to address the economic considerations associated with the Yadkin River. County officials claim that the FEIS still fails to address the economic and environmental issues surrounding the Yadkin Project, and remains inadequate in mentioning critical information provided by the State of North Carolina. In the FEIS, state leaders are either summarily dismissed or their input has not yet been considered. The position of Stanly County Commissioners is that little or no attention has been given to the economic or environmental interests of North Carolina or the majority of its citizens.

Stanly County Commissioners also directly dispute a claim in Alcoa’s April 21 news release that the possibility for a federal "takeover" of the Yadkin Project has been eliminated. According to the Commissioners and supported by the Federal Water Power Act of 1920, the opportunity to recapture the Yadkin Project for public gain has not been eliminated. The opportunity, according to County officials, exists until Congress makes its final decision. Currently, only Alcoa and staff serving an appointed federal commission have weighed in on the recapture possibility, neither of which hold the power to rule on a recapture option.

In recent weeks, the Stanly County Commissioners have received support opposing private ownership of the Yadkin River from the Davidson, Randolph and Cabarrus County Boards of Commissioners, as well as the Centralina Council of Governments. On April 4, 2008, Governor Easley voiced his support by asking the FERC to extend Alcoa’s current license for a period of one year, "so that we may all work toward solutions to serve the long-term economic and environmental needs of these communities." Each supporter has indicated publicly that more time is needed to review the relicensing of the Yadkin Project. Stanly County Commissioners are now posing the following question: how can a private multinational corporation determine a license will be issued within 3-5 months, as stated in its April 21 news release, when the Governor, Senators and Representatives across North Carolina, as well as several County Boards of Commissioners statewide are recommending that more time is needed to make a decision on the Yadkin Project that truly considers the best interests of all North Carolina citizens?

"We believe Alcoa’s April 21 news release did nothing to further the general public’s accurate understanding of the relicensing process and instead, gave our citizens the impression that this is a done deal," said Stanly County Commissioner Lindsey Dunevant. "Our goal for years now has been to inform North Carolina citizens of their rights. We must be very cautious in this federal relicensing process. It will grant a 50-year license allowing control of the Yadkin River, one of our state’s most vital natural resources. Few things are as crucial to our state’s economic stability as affordable electricity and a clean, adequate water supply. I urge Alcoa to join in on a discussion of the issues at hand instead of producing documents aimed at confusing the general public. That, at the very least, is what our citizens deserve."

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About This Effort:
In 1958, Alcoa, the world’s leading producer of primary aluminum, secured a federal hydroelectric license for the Yadkin Project on the Yadkin River in Stanly, Davidson, Montgomery and Rowan Counties in the Central Piedmont. In return, Alcoa promised aluminum manufacturing jobs for Stanly County for years to come. Alcoa has now essentially disappeared as a major employer in the region and shut down its manufacturing plants, but it wants to continue reaping the benefits of the Yadkin River after its license expires in April of this year. In addition, Alcoa discharged hazardous pollutants into North Carolina air and waterways for decades while harvesting immense profits from the Yadkin River, but has yet to finish cleaning up that contamination. It has filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to obtain another 50-year license. If Alcoa is successful, one of North Carolina’s most valuable water resources will be used to maximize Alcoa’s profits, instead of being used to benefit the people of North Carolina, who themselves are in dire need of affordable electricity, local economic development, and clean, adequate drinking water.

Patty Briguglio
MMI Associates, Inc.
(919) 233-6600
PR Firms Raleigh, NC

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