State News

Alcoa says contested NC dams generated $8M profit

Posted March 4, 2011

— Alcoa Inc. says the Yadkin River hydroelectric dams it's fighting to continue operating returned profits of nearly $8 million last year.

The company is releasing financial statements Friday. The profits are based on sales of $31 million.

Alcoa vice president Kevin Anton explained why the company is waging a determined fight with North Carolina officials for a renewed federal operating license of up to 50 years. He told The Associated Press the corporation sees itself as an energy company within the country's largest aluminum maker.

State officials briefed by the company Thursday had no immediate comment.

Alcoa once employed hundreds in an aluminum plant near the Yadkin River. The plant closed in 2007, but the company receives millions of dollars selling the electricity that the four hydroelectric dams generate.

The state Division of Water Quality initially approved Alcoa's plans in 2009, but since then, state leaders, including Gov. Beverly Perdue, have opposed the company's effort to get federal approval for a new operating permit.

State leaders have said that Alcoa makes a profit while the state receives no benefit. They want to regain control over the dams and the electricity they produce.

The latest skirmish happened in December, when the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources claimed the company intentionally withheld information about water quality. Alcoa officials said they never withheld any material information and challenged the revocation.

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.

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

Alcoa also operates hydroelectric dams on the North Carolina-Tennessee border, Quebec, Brazil, and Central America.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Mr. Sensible Mar 4, 2011

    Ahhh,, what's the use in letting the generators set idle??? What does the state wanna do take them over and make more money off of John Q.

  • Rolling Along Mar 4, 2011

    You all do realize that these dams have been in place nearly 100 years? And that the plant that was closed and is being torn down came on line in 1914? It would be nice if someone could actually research an article and include some pertinent facts.

  • naturegirl Mar 4, 2011

    ajfuddermukker, okemooutlaw44, drkreamer and all you other bashers. Why don't you move to that other state, the one that's perfect. The one where no one is taxed, the gov't looks out for all your concerns for free. Oh wait, there isn't one. Stop whining about everything that doesn't fit you to a T or move. The rest of us will certainly be happy for you when you do.

  • naturegirl Mar 4, 2011

    All streams and rivers in the state are "Public Trust" waters, meaning they belong to the citizens and not to any individual person or company. The dam prevents recreational activites like kayaking or boating in this stretch of the river. It also prevents aquatic species from moving up or down stream, thereby restricting the natural community in this area. I would rather the state have control over state public trust waters instead of a for-profit company that is no longer using the waters to provide equitable financial return to NC citizens.

  • soapbox Mar 4, 2011

    If this were private property everyone would be up in arms about property rights, claiming the landowner has the right to do with their land whatever they want – whatever is in their own best interest. But since this is public property you’re on the other side? Since it’s public property that somehow makes it a gov’t/Democratic conspiracy to undermine business and ruin American enterprise? The lease is up, the state is within its rights to terminate the arrangement because it no longer benefits the landowner, i.e., the people of NC.

  • tennisluvr Mar 4, 2011

    Stanly County is a Republican held county and the citizens and leaders there are fighting Alco and your governor is supporting them on this issue. Have you ever heard of the New York State Power Authority and Nigara Falls? The State reclaimed their river back in 1931. How about Santee Cooper Authority in South Carolina? The same thing. These states were wise enough not to let this situation happen to them. NC is just behind the times, as usual. So wake up and investigate the issue before you "guess" or "assume" you know what is at stake. This is your river, it does not belong to a CORPORATION and certainly not to one that does not EMPLOY anyone in NORTH CAROLINA.

  • tennisluvr Mar 4, 2011

    "In short, Alcoa's dams are worth hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars (estimates of the cost for another nuclear reactor at Shearon Harris start at $8 billion), far more than they cost to build and maintain over the years. That's because a hydropower plant, unlike a coal or nuclear facility, is cheap to install, easy to operate, and the "fuel"—the water from the Yadkin—is essentially free." If you enjoy have a huge corporation ruining your NC River then let it keep happening. There is no benefit to NC...

  • tennisluvr Mar 4, 2011

    And today, even that one plant sits empty: Alcoa closed it in 2007 ("curtailed it," the company says), sending its jobs to newer facilities abroad. Indeed, the name Alcoa is no longer an acronym for an American company. It is instead a global brand for a firm that makes aluminum in Iceland, Brazil or wherever it's most efficient to do so. But not in North Carolina.

    Nonetheless, Alcoa retains control of the Yadkin and is seeking a 50-year renewal of its operating license, which expired last year. With its smelter shut down, it sells the electricity to wholesalers or "the grid." Most of the power ends up in other states, the company reports. The revenues, minus payroll for a skeletal workforce of about three dozen in North Carolina, belong to an Alcoa power subsidiary based in Tennessee. The profits are distributed worldwide.

  • Capt Mercury Mar 4, 2011

    I suspect an underlying reason for the State of NC wanting to take over these dams is to conserve water for the summer months. Holding water in these lakes is good for water supply, but bad for power generation. So, do you want water to come out of the tap or electricity to run your TV?

  • tennisluvr Mar 4, 2011

    They built the dams to operate their factory. They closed the factory, everyone lost their jobs, they polluted the river and they refuse to clean it up. If you want more information:
    Alcoa's APGI subsidiary wants the federal government to renew — for another 50 years — the license under which the corporation operates four dams, four hydropower plants and a string of water-supply reservoirs on the Yadkin River.

    You will also recall that Stanly County, the Yadkin Riverkeeper and Gov. Perdue since she took office have been fighting Aloca tooth and nail, arguing that:

    (1) the only reason Alcoa was allowed to install the hydropower plants in the first place (which, in effect, gave it control of the river) was so it could supply cheap electricity to a big aluminum smelter in Stanly County, but the smelter and the hundreds of jobs that went with it are now kaput; and

    (2) in the course of running the plant and the dams, Alcoa polluted the Yadkin but refuses to own up to the damage it'