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Alcoa appeals NC move blocking dam relicensing

Associated Press Modified: January 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm •  Published: January 28, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina environmental regulators should restore a key state water certification revoked amid allegations an Alcoa Inc. subsidiary intentionally withheld information, the company said Friday.

Alcoa Power Generating Inc. is appealing last month's decision in an effort to remove a big obstacle blocking the company's effort to renew its license to operate hydroelectric dams along the Yadkin River for up to 50 years.

Alcoa denied Friday that it withheld information about the ability to meet the state's water quality standard for dissolved oxygen.

The state Division of Water Quality initially approved Alcoa's plans on the condition that it include a $240 million guarantee that Alcoa make improvements to its system. The company's four hydroelectric dams are not currently meeting standards as they draw deep water with low dissolved oxygen levels and discharge that water into the river.

A court fight challenging the water certification ended after opponents pointed to internal company e-mails in which company officials expressed concern that downstream waters may not meet state standards. State officials cited the e-mails in their decision to revoke the certification Dec. 1.

"In its revocation notice, the DWQ quotes selected portions of e-mails that do not provide the complete story and were taken out of context," Alcoa Energy President Rick Bowen said in a statement Friday. "If you read the entire e-mail chains in context, and review the entire record, you find that no material information was withheld."

State regulators received notice of Alcoa's appeal and had no immediate comment, Department of Environment and Natural Resources spokesman Jamie Kritzer said. The company's appeal enters a process of administrative hearings followed by the possibility either side could appeal further to state court, he said.

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