Preserve Alcoa's power plant

From Gene Ellis, licensing and property manager, Alcoa Power Generating Inc.:

There is no question that maintaining a healthy and abundant water supply is critical to North Carolina's future. That's why Alcoa supports the N.C. General Assembly's plan to study water issues along the Yadkin River.

Alcoa has served as a good steward of the Yadkin River for nearly 100 years and remains committed to supporting North Carolina's water interests.

Our hydroelectric generation operations along the river do not consume any water, and our relicensing agreement includes plans to improve water quality. In addition, the agreement provides for new or increased water withdrawals by local municipalities, giving North Carolina access to water for growth during the next 50 years.

As part of the relicensing process, Alcoa has already spent more than five years working with the state and others to strike a balance between many competing interests in the Yadkin River. While we believe North Carolina's water interests are well represented and strongly supported in our current relicensing agreement, we look forward to working with the state's Environmental Review Commission to study these issues.

Our opponents would have you believe that North Carolina faces a choice – to protect our state's water interests or allow Alcoa Power Generating Inc. to continue operating the Yadkin hydroelectric plant. That's a false choice. North Carolina can do both.

Following the completion of this legislative study, the state of North Carolina should take steps to protect its future water needs while preserving Alcoa's property rights to generate clean and renewable energy.

Legislative leaders in both chambers have clearly stated that the legislature does not intend to consider a takeover or condemnation of the Yadkin Project as part of the proposed study.

But after the bill setting up the study passed the legislature, the N.C. Water Rights Committee and other opponents started singing a different tune. They said the Environmental Review Commission should study the “recapture” of the Yadkin power plant.

No matter what words you use, the goal of Alcoa's opponents is clear: they want the government to spend taxpayer money to take control of a private hydroelectric business that was built and funded entirely by Alcoa.

North Carolina citizens have said they strongly oppose that plan – and for good reason. A government takeover of a private business sets a dangerous precedent and sends the wrong message to businesses that may be looking to expand or locate in North Carolina.

For the state to study a “recapture” or “taking” of the Yadkin power plant is outside the bounds of what the study calls for.

It is our expectation that the Environmental Review Commission will stay true to the focus of this study as enacted by the General Assembly – the assurance of a clean, future water supply; the allocation of water for non-power uses; and the socioeconomic impact of Alcoa job losses – and develop recommendations that do not consider the taking of the Yadkin plant in any way, shape or form.

By following this path, we are confident that Alcoa and the state can identify reasonable measures regarding the future water management of the Yadkin River.