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Md. court dismisses Exelon challenge on water quality plan

The Conowingo Dam in northern Maryland is about five miles from the Pennsylvania border and 10 miles from the Chesapeake Bay on the Susquehanna River. . (Photo: JESSICA WILDE/CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE)

The Conowingo Dam in northern Maryland is about five miles from the Pennsylvania border and 10 miles from the Chesapeake Bay on the Susquehanna River. (Capital News Service/Jessica Wilde)

A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge has dismissed a challenge by Exelon to the water quality certification issued by a Maryland agency in the proposed relicensing of the Conowingo Dam.

A spokesperson for the utility said it was still fighting the issue in federal court.

“Exelon Generation shares the state of Maryland’s commitment to restoring and sustaining the health of the Chesapeake Bay,” Exelon said in a statement. “The cleanup of pollution and debris is a basin-wide issue that must be collectively addressed by upstream states, which are the source of the pollution, not the Conowingo Dam, which does not produce any pollution or debris. We will continue to contest the MDE 401 Certification, which sets a precedent of assigning sole responsibility for pollution to the Conowingo Dam.”

Gov. Larry Hogan says progress in fighting pollution in the Chesapeake Bay could be at risk if Maryland doesn’t pursue a comprehensive regional approach to reducing pollution in the Susquehanna River, which flows through the dam.

Ben Grumbles, who heads the Maryland Department of the Environment, said Thursday that the agency’s water quality certification for the proposed relicensing of the dam includes responsible and necessary conditions based on science and the law.

Earlier this year, the state issued Exelon a water quality certification as part of an effort by the company to secure a new 50-year license to continue operating the power-generating dam.

The state certification requires Exelon to reduce pollution from the dam.  Included in the requirements was a feasibility study for the installation and operation of a solar-powered device similar to one used in the Baltimore Harbor known as Mr. Trash Wheel.

Fines for failing to comply could cost the company as much as $170 million.

Exelon filed suit in state and federal court challenging the requirements. The state has filed a request to dismiss the  complaint filed by Exelon in U.S. District Court.

A 2017 study said the dam, built in 1928, was no longer preventing sediment from flowing downstream.

Hogan last year called for dredging at the dam, and he solicited private contractors for innovative ideas to do the job and also deal with dredge spoils in cost-effective and environmentally sound ways.

 


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