The owner of Conowingo Dam on Friday challenged conditions Maryland placed on the hydroelectric facility’s continued operation, saying the pollution cleanup ordered by the state imposes an “unfair burden” that would cost “orders of magnitude” more than the dam is worth.Good for Exelon.
Exelon Corp. filed an appeal asking the Maryland Department of the Environment to reconsider its decision in late April requiring the company to pay up to $172 million annually to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution flowing past the dam and to make other changes in the dam’s operation to improve fish habitat and water quality in the lower Susquehanna River and Upper Chesapeake Bay.
The Chicago-based energy company simultaneously filed suit challenging the MDE decision in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the Maryland Circuit Court of Baltimore City. Exelon said it went to court at the same time it asked the MDE to reconsider its decision because of the “seriousness of the issues at hand.”
“The dam itself does not produce any pollution,” Exelon said in a statement issued Friday. “Rather, the science clearly shows that the pollutants that travel down the Susquehanna River, from New York and Pennsylvania, are the source of the nutrients and sediments that flow into the Bay.”
If they did anything, Exelon bought an asset which had protected the Chesapeake Bay from some of the pollution coming down the Susquehanna River from Pennsylvania and New York for 80 years, but is no longer able to do so. The Bay community had ample warning of this happening; at my first scientific meeting in the Bay area back in 1985 or so, the head of the EPA Bay program warned that the greatest threat facing the Bay was the filling of the pool behind Conowingo Dam with sediment, which would end it's ability to retain pollution. Well, thirty years later, here we are.