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Judge halts Alcoa permit for Yadkin River

An administrative law judge has put a temporary halt to Alcoa's quest for another 50-year license on the Yadkin River. The decision comes at the request of Gov. Bev Perdue, Stanly County and the Yadkin Riverkeeper. They say Alcoa no longer deserves to operate its four hydropower dams on the Yadkin River because the aluminum company closed the smelter on Badin Lake for which it originally built the dams. They also say the state Division of Water Quality failed to consider contamination from the smelter when it gave Alcoa approval to move ahead with renewing the license. The agency issued Alcoa a permit earlier this month. The temporary injunction that blocks the permit is in effect until at least a court hearing takes place. Alcoa wants the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve a new 50-year license this summer. In a prepared statement, Alcoa says the judge's decision represents another "unnecessary delay." Alcoa closed its Badin smelter in 2002. It once employed more than 900 people. Alcoa still operates the dams that used to power the smelter. Today, the company sells the electricity the dams generate. Click here for WFAE's series, Public vs. Private: Power Struggle on the Yadkin.