State News

Alcoa moves to gain support for NC dam operation

Posted December 21, 2010

— Executives with one of the world’s largest producers of aluminum are going on the road in an effort to gain support for the company to continue operating hydroelectric dams along North Carolina’s Yadkin River.

According to the state Department of Commerce, the four dams generate an estimated $20 million to $100 million a year in profits for Alcoa, which once employed hundreds in an aluminum plant near the river.

North Carolina officials, including Gov. Bev Perdue, oppose Alcoa’s operation of the dams, saying the company makes a profit while the state receives no benefit. They want to regain control over the dams and the electricity they produce.

Alcoa’s chief sustainability officer, Kevin Anton, is traveling the state, meeting with groups and officials to create what he calls a win-win for everyone.

He says Alcoa is committed to better water quality, investing millions into the hydroelectric dams and redeveloping its old plant site into an industrial complex.

“We're invested in it heavily. We think – we know – we’re the right operator of this asset,” Anton said. “We've got a great story to tell. We've got one person to convince (Perdue), in addition to the rest of the state.”

Alcoa moves to gain support for dam operation Alcoa moves to gain support for dam operation

This month, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources revoked a key certification needed for Alcoa to operate the dams for up to 50 more years.

Regulators said the company failed to detail the project's ability to meet the state's water quality standards.

Anton disagrees.

“I think we're pretty confident that material information wasn't withheld from the state, and that's what we intend to show them over the coming days and weeks,” Anton said.

A withdrawal of North Carolina's certification would essentially block Alcoa from getting federal approval.

Federal regulators were expected to make a decision on Alcoa's application in 2011, but the timeframe is now unclear since the state revoked the certification.

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  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Dec 22, 2010

    Bev is starting to sound a lot like Venezuela's Chavez by threatening to seize private property (the dams) from Alcoa.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Dec 22, 2010

    If I was Alcoa, I blow up the dams that Alcoa built and paid for before I would turn them over to the state.

    Bev is following Obama's Socialist example of seizing items from businesses.

    Bev should be forced to pay Alcoa fair market value for the dams if she seizes them.

  • stopthespending Dec 22, 2010

    i'd much rather have alcoa run the system than adding inefficient, overpaid, bureaucrats to an already bloated government. why not just provide water quality oversight like other water bodies

  • jdupree Dec 22, 2010

    The Realist makes vary valid points. I don't trust Perdue and politicians to administer this to the benefit of the Tax Payers in NC. If it can be done in a way where they cannot give it to some preferred friend/business, but bid out on no more than a very few, no more than 5 year basis, then it would be turned into a source of revenue with the ability to re-evaluate the pricing periodically. The water level would have to be controlled/managed by the state/corp of engineers to insure protection of the environment and water supply. If Progress Energy or Duke were interested that would likely be a better partner than some political partner.

  • Wacky_dood Dec 21, 2010

    I'm an Alcoa shareholder and I was surprised by how much money they are making from this dam.

    I think the state should get the dams back. The state agreed to the building of the dams so Alcoa could generate their own electricity to run the plant. Since they closed the plant, their need for cheap electricity is gone and the state should reclaim the dams.
    Why should they get to dam a state resource and keep the profit on the electricity? More big business trying to get government handouts.

  • godnessgracious Dec 21, 2010

    One failure of Ayn Rand's Objectivism is that the free market will never do enough to protect the Environment. Even our modified Capitalism doesn't do enough. They had all the incentive in the world to make sure they could meet water quality standards and apparently have not come up with a plan to actually do so. Basically telling the State, "We want the money that comes from operating the dams but don't care about all this water quality business." Oh no you don't care? Well, we will operate these dams our dam selves and keep the dam money.

  • jdwillis Dec 21, 2010

    It is shameful that the Governor is trying to take private property. Perdue is proving to be the great shame of NC anything to make money even if it includes taking private property. Alcoa has been good citizen of NC for long time. Hang on Alcoa till election time.