Stanly County Commissioners Announce Opposition to Alcoa’s Use of Public Water As Free Source Of Fue

Published: Wed Apr 30 2008

The Stanly County Board of Commissioners have announced their opposition to having public water in North Carolina used by Alcoa as a free source of fuel. The announcement comes in light of an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by Alcoa for a 50-year license to control, govern and sustain ownership of water flowing from the Yadkin River, one of the longest rivers in North Carolina. A key element of the opposition, County officials state, is that water from the Yadkin River, an economic driver generating annual profits in excess of $45 million, powers Alcoa’s hydroelectric operations at no cost. Because only Alcoa has hydroelectric operations on the upper Yadkin – and will maintain that exclusive status for another 50 years if FERC grants a license – the commissioners regard it as an unfair monopoly of North Carolina water rights and thus a sufficient reason to deny the license and recapture the project for public gain.

The Commissioners note that if a private company builds a nuclear or coal plant, they have to buy nuclear fuel or coal to power the plant, but there are no such costs to Alcoa for the water it uses to power its operations, even though in 33 states, any private company that builds a hydroelectric plant must buy the water it uses as its fuel source. Officials point out that Alcoa has agreements with Massena, N.Y. and Chelan County, Wash. to use their water while allowing those communities to control their water resources, and that if Alcoa wants to continue operating in North Carolina, it should abide under the same conditions for its use of the Yadkin. The commissioners feel that a private multinational firm such as Alcoa should not be allowed to usurp the county’s, and North Carolina’s, water rights in the face of these considerations.

In recent weeks, the Stanly County Commissioners have received strong support opposing private control of the Yadkin River without a commensurate public benefit 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 FERC not to give Alcoa a 50-year license but instead to extend Alcoa’s current license only for one (1) year to allow time to study this issue.

The Yadkin Project as a whole is comprised of hydroelectric stations, dams and reservoirs along a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River in central North Carolina. Stanly, Montgomery, Davidson and Rowan counties have shorelines along the four water reservoirs that include: High Rock, Tuckertown, Narrows and Falls. The Yadkin-Pee Dee Watershed includes twenty-one counties and contains ninety-three state municipalities.

"Our position is that Alcoa should not get a free ride to operate their dams and generate hydroelectric power, as they do at present," said Stanly County Commissioner Lindsey Dunevant. "Alcoa should pay for the privilege of using our state’s water. The water rights of the citizens of Stanly County – and for that matter, the citizens of North Carolina in general – need to be respected as this relicensing application undergoes review by FERC."

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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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