Waterkeepers Move to Intervene in Federal Conowingo Dam Lawsuit

On July 20, Waterkeepers Chesapeake and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, represented by Earthjustice, filed a motion to intervene in a federal court action regarding the relicensing of the Conowingo Dam. The dam is owned and operated by Exelon Generation Company, LLC and its current license expired in 2014. Exelon is seeking a new 50-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, the State of Maryland must issue a Water Quality Certification, certifying that the project will meet state water quality standards before FERC can grant a new license.

The State of Maryland issued its Water Quality Certification on April 27 and Exelon sued the State on May 25 in federal district court, challenging the state’s authority to require any pollution reduction from upstream sources. Waterkeepers Chesapeake and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper filed to intervene in this case, supporting the State’s authority under the Clean Water Act.

“The Water Quality Certification for Conowingo Dam is critical for not only the Susquehanna River, but for the entire Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “Exelon is seeking to disarm the State of one of its key tools to protect water quality in this relicensing process. While we feel that Maryland’s certification is missing some key elements, we absolutely support states’ authority to protect water quality and require power companies to reduce pollution from the operation of their dams. In its lawsuit, Exelon is essentially seeking to dodge the Clean Water Act and shirk its responsibility for the pollution associated with its dam. Someone is going to have to pay to cleanup that pollution, and if it’s not Exelon it will be Maryland taxpayers. And we’re talking about a 50-year permit – if we don’t get this right, we’ll be paying for a generation.”

For more information, please contact Betsy Nicholas at betsy(at)waterkeeperschesapeake.org or 202-423-0504

Court filings:

Motion to Intervene

Memo in support of intervention