Maryland’s Congressional Delegation Pushes for Strong Environmental Protections in License for Conowingo Dam

On April 5, the entire Maryland congressional delegation sent a letter to Maryland Department of the Environment’s (MDE) Secretary Serena McIlwain urging the state to ensure environmental protection measures for the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay Watershed are central to the new licensing agreement that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is considering for the Conowingo Dam. We thank Senator Van Hollen for leading this effort. We applaud the lawmakers who stressed that this relicensing process presents an opportunity for the state to incorporate its 2018 Water Quality Certification requirements and advance critical efforts to curtail sediment flowing into the river and Bay at the Dam. Constellation Energy’s operation of the Conowingo Hydroelectric Power Plant over the past 95 years has resulted in millions of tons of sediment and nutrient pollution trapped behind the dam.

The lawmakers underscored that “Any licensing agreement is poised to have long-lasting implications not only for the Dam, but also for Maryland’s ability to meet our clean water goals. The 50-year FERC license that was vacated by the court did not contain the important cleanup requirements that Maryland found necessary to protect the water quality of the river and Bay. We are pleased that the State now has the opportunity to ensure any license granted for Conowingo has adequate measures to achieve meaningful progress on the health of the Chesapeake Bay and will continue to advance our regional efforts to meet the Chesapeake Bay Agreement goals.”

We hope that the new Maryland administration and MDE Secretary take this letter to heart and don’t make the mistakes of the past of bending to Constellation’s pressure. Instead, this is an opportunity for an open and transparent process that ensures that, unlike in the previous licensing proceeding, members of the public — including environmental groups, watermen and other stakeholders — are kept informed and provided with opportunities for input. We oppose any attempts to weaken water quality conditions or to yet again negotiate behind closed doors. Looking to the future, we also call on Maryland to guarantee an inclusive and transparent process that includes stakeholders and the public in the fair and effective implementation of the license and the related Conowingo Watershed Implementation Plan.