Big, Bad Government, no matter how you look at it

I hadn’t planned on writing again on this topic this soon, but it‘s raised its ugly head again in the news. The Raleigh News & Observer today published an article: Public agency considered for Yadkin hydropower . This is, if not the same, a variation on the Yadkin River Trust which the state legislature defeated in mid-2010, 66 - 39. Keith Crisco, of all people, said it conjures “an image of big, bad state government taking over.” But then, he goes on to say it’d be okay if the public agency were centered in the six counties near the Yadkin Project.

The entire article is a bit vague on who the State and civic leaders behind this are, or what the public agency is. But, the description seems to fit the Uwharrie Regional Resources Commission (URRC), which someone in the state legislature hastily created after it became apparent that the Yadkin River Trust legislation could not pass, behind closed doors in Raleigh, with no public comment. The enabling legislation for the URRC sounds inocuous, does not mention Alcoa, and appears to be something entirely different than an agency to control the Yadkin Project. Yet, there’s been suspicion. The appointments to the Commission have been stacked with obvious proponents of a state takeover. There is nothing about the URRC that does not smack of big bad government. The entire thing was crammed down the public’s throat.

Now, I’ll grant you, promises are being made of all the benefits this would have. It would be “clean” energy, something which has been overlooked when talking about Alcoa producing it all these years. It would bring thousands of jobs. Really? After they’ve paid off the cost of buying it? After they’ve done all the thorough (far above usual standards) environmental cleanup in the entire basin they’ve also promised? After they’ve kept their promises to give some of the money to community colleges? We have asked repeatedly for a realistic financial model, and all we’ve ever gotten is pie-in-the-sky promises.

And I still have to ask, what do they think gives them the right to take over a privately owned business, especially since it‘s just become obvious that the State does not own the riverbed? Alcoa bought the property, built the dams and powerhouses, has maintained them all these years, developed the business, pays its taxes, just like any other business. The examples they’re using, in South Carolina and New York, were state owned, developed, and operated from the beginning. They did not occur by seizing a private business. If the State of North Carolina wants to build its own dams, more power to them (pun intended). But these kinds of government shenanigans make me wonder what country I’m living in.


You are living in a country

in which private businesses call the shots, control many levels of government, choose which candidates will run, influences elections, and runs roughshod over the environment without bearing responsibility for their damage.

  • Am I wrong in my understanding that what's being discussed here is a contract between the people of North Carolina and a private company ... a contract that would effectively renew a license that has expired?
  • Am I wrong in my understanding that there is nothing in the original licensing agreement that presumes the agreement would be extended?
  • What's your personal interest in this?

Your understanding is incorrect, Sir

James, your opening sentence certainly does not apply in this case. See Alcoa calling the shots? See Alcoa choosing which candidates will run? See Alcoa influencing elections? See Alcoa running roughshod over the environment without bearing responsibiity for their damage? (I'll tell you more about that later.) All Alcoa is trying to do is keep their business.

There is not, never has been, nor is one proposed, a contract between Alcoa and the State of North Carolina. (I make a distinction between government bureaucracy and "the people".) Alcoa's contract (license) is with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), who licenses, and in many respects controls, hydroelectric projects.

There is nothing in the original license that presumes it would be extended, but FERC has already recommended a new license.

Governor Perdue just thought she'd stick her nose into it, ignore all the hard work the relicensing process stakeholders had done, and take over, without a "please" or "by your leave". It isn't just about Alcoa, it's about all of us.

FYI, here's a list of the Relicensing Settlement Agreement (RSA) signatories, and there are also other local organizations who support the RSA:

Alcoa Power Generating Inc. (Alcoa-Yadkin)
American Rivers
Badin Lake Association
Badin Historic Museum
Catawba Indian Nation
City of Albemarle, NC
High Rock Business Owners Group
High Rock Lake Association
Land Trust for Central North Carolina
Montgomery County, NC
The Nature Conservancy (S.C. Chapter)
N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources *
* Represents the N.C. Division of Water Quality and N.C. Division of Water Resources
N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
Pee Dee River Coalition
Piedmont Boat Club
Rowan County, NC
Salisbury/Rowan Association of Realtors
S.C. Coastal Conservation League
S.C. Department of Health & Environmental Control
S.C. Department of Natural Resources
Town of Badin, NC
U.S. Forest Service
Uwharrie Point Community Association

I'm one of many people in the project area who have been involved in the relicensing process since 2002. I worked toward the RSA with many others. I think it's a good agreement. I think it's arrogant of the Governor to think she can take over. I don't like the unethical tactics the takeover proponents have used. I've never liked overbearing heavy-handed government. (That's my personal interest.)