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Stanly County-Alcoa Negotiations Over Yadkin River Deteriorate

http://66.225.205.104/JR20111111b.mp3

Already tense negotiations between Alcoa and Stanly County over the promise of new jobs in exchange for control of the Yadkin River have frayed even further. Alcoa is pledging to bring 750 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to Stanly County, if commissioners will step aside and let Alcoa's hydropower license be renewed. WFAE's Julie Rose reports the two sides appear as far apart as they've ever been. The last time Alcoa and Stanly County officials met was Oct. 10. A mediator played go-between and the meeting lasted all day. No progress has been made since. Here are the main sticking points: First, Stanly County wants long-term assurance that Alcoa will deliver on those 750 jobs and $400 million investment. Alcoa says it has at least half of that lined up from a company called Clean Tech which would make silicon and recycled rebar on the old Alcoa smelter site in Badin. Now, if the jobs fall through, Alcoa says it'll pay the county a million dollars a year for the next 50 years. But Commissioner Lindsey Dunevant says Stanly County wants more: the ability to quickly get a court order - or even have Alcoa's hydrolicense revoked - if the promised jobs and money don't materialize. "Every time we've proposed that, Alcoa takes the language out," says Dunevant. Alcoa's Kevin Anton says that's because the language is "not needed." "The county has the right to bring legal action against Alcoa in any (court) they choose to," says Anton. However, such a fight against a multi-national corporate giant would likely mean a lot of money and a lot of time. The second sticking point - and perhaps the biggest - is who should control the water. Commissioner Dunevant says Stanly County feels, "like that very definitely needs to be in the hands of the citizens of North Carolina. We feel like this is a valuable resource that should be providing benefits in the public interest." Alcoa's four Yadkin River dams averaged about $30 million in wholesale electric sales over the last few years. Stanly County Commissioners want a share of the profits or access to some of the electricity for free. But Anton says, "Nobody has created a compelling discussion and argument of why profit sharing is appropriate beyond the taxes that we pay today. I don't see profit sharing coming from Duke or Progress or other utilities." Alcoa and Stanly County officials say they're willing to keep negotiating, but have yet to set a meeting. If and when they do, a mediator will likely be involved.