[dropcap]A[/dropcap]n energy bill moving through Congress could strip Maryland of its rights under the Clean Water Act to require a permit for Exelon Energy Corporation to operate the Conowingo Dam, which discharges 40% of all the nutrient and sediment pollution into the Chesapeake Bay from the Susquehanna River.
“[The bill] would strip states of their authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to develop license conditions to protect water quality,” wrote Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles in a Nov. 25 letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi opposing the bill.
“Any new FERC license for the dam will have to contain appropriate conditions to address nutrient and sediment transport and ensure that Maryland’s water quality standards are maintained.”
Under the proposed North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would become the lead agency, with the authority to overrule state regulators.
The bill comes as Exelon is trying to renew its operating license with FERC for another 46 years, but under Section 401, FERC cannot issue a license to Exelon without a water quality permit from Maryland.
State denied permit
Last year Maryland Department of the Environment moved to deny Exelon a water quality permit when the energy giant failed to address the dam’s impact on the state’s ability to comply with an EPA mandate to meet Clean Water Act standards for the Bay by 2025. Exelon is currently operating under a temporary license.