Baltimore judge tosses first legal challenge by Exelon
BALTIMORE — A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge tossed on Oct. 11 the first of three challenges filed by Exelon Corp. in response to stringent requirements placed by the state on a permit its required to obtain to operate the Conowingo Dam in the long-term.
In her dismissal ruling, Circuit Court Judge Pamela J. White cited her primary reasoning as the fact that Exelon has yet to exhaust its administrative challenges with the Maryland Department of the Environment. The company has filed a request for reconsideration with the department, and, if still unsatisfied, could file an administrative appeal over the permit.
“There is no final administrative decision ripe for judicial review,” the judge wrote in her ruling.
Along with its administrative challenge to the MDE, Exelon also has filed a lawsuit against the state in U.S. District Court. As of Oct. 16, a judge’s ruling on the state’s motion to dismiss in that case was also still being awaited.
On Oct. 11, Gov. Larry Hogan touted his administration’s work toward water quality improvements in the Chesapeake Bay and his tough stance on drawing more resources from neighboring states as well as Exelon.
“Maryland is making historic progress in reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. The bay recently received its highest water quality rating ever reported, but all of our progress could be at risk if we do not pursue a comprehensive regional approach to reducing pollution in the Susquehanna River,” Hogan said in a statement. “As the dam’s operator, Exelon has a critical role to play in a comprehensive strategy for bay restoration, and we are committed to working with all partners to obtain this vital water quality certification so we can preserve the bay for future generations.”
In its suit in the state court, Exelon had argued, among other reasons, that because MDE had filed its water quality certificate with the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee as part of Exelon’s federal relicensing process, that it had suffered “irreparable injury” because it would have to “immediately commence costly work and thus alter its practices almost at once.”
White disagreed, citing that fact that FERC’s licensing is unresolved and that Exelon has received numerous annual license renewals from the state since 2012.
The Chicago-based energy company has been seeking a new 50-year operating license from the federal government for the Conowingo Dam. To obtain that, however, it needs a state-issued water quality certificate.
The first legal challenge by the owner of the Conowingo Dam, seen here, was tossed out by a Baltimore judge, who argued that the company hadn’t yet exhausted its administrative appeals related to a needed water quality certificate.