Maryland’s Conowingo Dam was built and has been in operation since the 1920’s. It is now operated by Susquehanna Electric Company which is a subsidiary of Exelon Power Corporation located in Chicago, Illinois. Recently the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted Exelon a 50-year license to operate the dam that supplies hydroelectric power to Susquehanna Electric Company’s customers.
According to The Baltimore Sun, soon after the permit was issued, environmentalist group Waterkeepers Chesepeake sued saying FERC’s doing so ignores the bad environmental impacts the dam has created and doesn’t do enough to force Exelon to address the alleged environmental problems.
The Sun says the dam has trapped a large amount of sediment and debris in Chesepeake Bay for years. The waterway behind the dam is supposedly almost full so pollutants flow downstream into the bay. This, in turn, can create dead zones in the bay for lifeforms there especially when storms occur.
The state backed down in 2018 after being challenged in court resulting from the controversy surrounding the pollution. Maryland originally said they would fine the company millions of dollars unless Exelon developed a means to address the problems. However, the state and Exelon agreed to a settlement where the company would be charged $200 million for clean up.
Consequently, environmentalists say they want FERC to have to put what was in their original with Exelon as part of their license to operate or they claim taxpayers will have to foot the bill. This all sounds real complicated and convoluted, doesn’t it?
There are two sides to every story and if the company loses the license to operate, then hundreds of people would be thrown out of work. The company is operating a dam that has been in operation almost 100 years and they are saddled with the costs of maintaining it in which that can be very expensive and time consuming as well.
The environmentalist’s actions are very similar to other efforts to build wind and solar farms. Once proposed and the process begins to get all of the permits and concessions to start construction on renewable energy projects, environmentalists groups sue to stop them.
In this case, it shows environmentalist hostility to dams because to the greens dams obviously contribute to climate change. Deny Exelon the ability to operate the Conowingo Dam and it would one step closer to getting rid of it in order to destroy communities downstream. How very convenient!
PHOTO CREDIT: Post card of the dam By Tichnor Bros. Inc., Boston, Mass. – Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers collection #73856, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41436873