40 Groups, Over 800 People Call on Maryland to Uphold Strong Water Quality Protections at Conowingo Dam

Constellation Must Pay Its Fair Share; The Burden Should Not be Shifted to Marylanders

This summer, Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is reconsidering the Clean Water Act 401 water quality certification from 2018 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) should not have accepted the 2019 backroom deal between Constellation and MDE, vacating Constellation’s new 50-year license to operate the dam. As the residents of the Chesapeake Bay region look on, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, Sassafras Riverkeeper, our coalition members, and partner organizations continue to fight to protect the Bay and make sure that Constellation doesn’t just take profits while only leaving consequences.

The Choose Clean Water Coalition (CCWC) and forty environmental groups submitted a letter last week to MDE calling on the agency to reject any request to weaken its prior decision upon reconsideration of certification. In the letter, the CCWC emphasizes that the 2018 certification would significantly reduce nutrient and sediment pollution as well as enhance biodiversity through greater fish and eel passage. The letter also focuses on the removal of debris and trash impacting recreation in downstream communities, maintaining Susquehanna River flow sufficient to protect aquatic species, and building greater resilience throughout the estuary by fostering a return of more natural habitat in the Lower Susquehanna and Upper Bay. Increased rainfall from climate change is also noted, which climate scientists from around the world have indicated will be a concern for the Mid-Atlantic region. As the climate continues to destabilize, these devastating rainfalls, along with the damage and pollution they cause, are becoming part of the “new normal” for the region and the Dam. CCWC also voiced their concerns regarding the settlement between MDE and Constellation that waived the 2018 water quality certification, emphasizing that it represented bad public policy by shifting the burden of addressing the Dam’s impacts from Constellation to the state and local governments.

In addition, over 800 people signed a petition to MDE expressing the urgency of having a water quality certification that requires Constellation to address the nutrient load attributed to the Dam’s operations, improve downstream flow, restore lost ecosystem services, improve upstream American eel and fish passage, strengthen the resiliency of the Susquehanna River to climate change, and manage trash and debris that accumulates behind the Dam. The petition highlights that Constellation, a $30 billion corporation, should be made to pay their fair share instead of continuing to use a public resource for private gain.

MDE must enact the 2018 water quality certification as it had previously done. It is crucial to protect the livelihood of watermen, the recreation and tourism opportunities in the beautiful waters of the Chesapeake, and the millions of taxpayer dollars that have gone towards cleaner water in the Susquehanna and Chesapeake Bay.

More info at ConowingoDam.org