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Alcoa suffers setback in Yadkin River license

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Yadkin River

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Aluminum company Alcoa has suffered a setback in its attempt to secure another 50-year license to operate dams on the Yadkin River. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: Before Alcoa can renew its hydropower license on the Yadkin River, it needs a water quality certificate from the State of North Carolina. That certificate was issued in May, but required Alcoa to post a $240 million bond to ensure water quality improvements would be made. Alcoa is appealing that requirement and a state judge stayed the certificate while he considers the case. But that could take months, and Alcoa hoped to have its new license by now. So it asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, to waive North Carolina's right to issue the certificate on the grounds that it missed the deadline. Late last week, the FERC ruled against Alcoa and said the State of North Carolina still has authority to dictate water quality requirements in Alcoa's license. "We would certainly have appreciated a different decision," says Alcoa spokesman Gene Ellis. "The reason it's not a large concern for us is that FERC continues to have the ability to issue a license in the present." Ellis believes the FERC can - and should - renew Alcoa's license on the Yadkin now, rather than waiting for a judge to settle issues with the water quality certificate. But a spokeswoman for FERC says it is not the commission's practice to issue a hydropower license when a water quality certificate for that license has been stayed by a judge, as is the case with Alcoa.