Exelon Appeals Conowingo Order: Imposed Clean-up “Unfair Burden”

Exelon is appealing the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE)’s decision from last April charging the energy monolith with significantly reducing nutrient and sediment pollution coming from the Conowingo Dam – an order which could cost Exelon up to $172 million annually.

The dam has posed a challenge for restoration efforts under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) after research revealed that the dam’s reservoir has unexpectedly reached its capacity to trap sediment and nutrients from moving further downstream of the Susquehanna River and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay. MDE’s decision also requires Exelon to improve conditions for aquatic life and fish migration and improve debris management.

Exelon filed the appeals on May 25 in the District of Columbia Federal District Court, the Maryland Circuit Court in Baltimore, and with MDE. The company challenges Maryland’s water quality certification issued for Conowingo Dam pursuant to the Federal Clean Water Act on April 27, 2018.

From the Pennsylvania law firm Stock and Leader’s website:

The outcome of this litigation could have a significant impact on funding for nutrient reduction efforts throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, particularly in Pennsylvania.

Among other things, Maryland’s certification requires that Exelon develop a sediment and nutrient management plan to eliminate six million pounds of nitrogen and 260,000 pounds of phosphorus that would ultimately otherwise pass through the dam into the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland would allow Exelon several options to meet the reduction requirement, such as dredging the sediments trapped behind the dam. The likely way Exelon would achieve this goal, however, would be through the payment of in-lieu annual fees of $17 per pound of nitrogen and $270 per pound of phosphorus, for a total annual expenditure of approximately $172 million.

Exelon argues that the State’s order imposes an “unfair burden” that would cost “orders of magnitude” more than the dam is worth, according to the Bay Journal. From that coverage:

Exelon said it went to court at the same time it asked the MDE to reconsider its decision because of the “seriousness of the issues at hand.”

“The dam itself does not produce any pollution,” Exelon said in a statement issued Friday. “Rather, the science clearly shows that the pollutants that travel down the Susquehanna River, from New York and Pennsylvania, are the source of the nutrients and sediments that flow into the Bay.”

Learn more about the Conowingo Dam’s role in the third and final phase of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, and how it will affect both Maryland and its counties, at the Summer Conference session, Charting the Next Course for the Bay TMDL.

The MACo Summer Conference will be held August 15-18, 2018 at the Rowland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: