Bal­ti­more judge tosses first le­gal chal­lenge by Ex­elon

Kent County News - - NEWS - By JA­COB OWENS jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

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.

FILE PHOTO

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.

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