Welcome to Reuters Legal News beta. Please enjoy and provide us with your feedback as we continue to improve the Reuters Legal News experience.
Sign In
June 18, 20214:22 PM PDTLast Updated a month ago
Enviros sue FERC over re-licensing of Exelon’s Conowingo dam
Sebastien Malo

3 minute read
A bald eagle lands on a concrete barrier at the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River in Maryland November 26, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Related documents
Groups say FERC exceeded statutory authority under Clean Water Act
Lawsuit follows failed challenge before FERC
(Reuters) - Environmental groups have sued the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in federal appeals court, alleging that it unlawfully issued a new license to a subsidiary of electricity generator Exelon Corp for its Conowingo Dam in northern Maryland by failing to include conditions the state once imposed to mitigate environmental risks to water bodies downstream.
With the lawsuit filed on Thursday in U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Waterkeepers Chesapeake and others claim that FERC exceeded its authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) by issuing in March a new license to Exelon Generation Company for the dam without including water-quality conditions Maryland specified when reviewing the company's application, but later dropped.
FERC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Exelon Generation spokesperson Deena O'Brien said the company "supports FERC's thorough and unanimous decision to issue the new 50-year license for the Conowingo Dam."
"We'd prefer to focus on Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts - not on protracted litigation," the spokesperson added.
Waterkeepers Chesapeake's executive director Betsy Nicholas said in a statement that the license "includes grossly insufficient provisions that require no specific nitrogen and phosphorus reductions."
An environmental review FERC published in 2015 found that the downstream portion of the Susquehanna River on which the 572-megawatt dam sits, and the Chesapeake Bay further downstream, are "affected" by nitrogen and phosphorous from agricultural runoff that thrive on sediment in the dam's reservoirs.
The crop nutrients can spur excessive algae growth, a phenomenon that can choke off marine life.
The green groups' lawsuit revolves around a water-quality certification of the dam the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) issued in 2018. When FERC licenses dams, it must include in a license order, pursuant to the CWA, conditions a state has specified to be met in its water-quality certification.
Maryland's certification required Exelon to develop a plan to reduce sediment that gets trapped in the reservoir abutting the dam and to cut nutrient pollution, or pay an annual fee of about $172 million for the duration of the license.
The conditions prompted lawsuits by Exelon in state and federal courts, an administrative appeal before the MDE and a petition before FERC.
The parties settled in 2019. Under that settlement, Maryland waived its rights to issue a CWA water-quality certification. In exchange, Exelon committed to investing more than $200 million in environmental protection and mitigation measures over the 50-year term of its new license.
Thursday's plaintiffs, who intervened in the petition before FERC, petitioned the commission to vacate the licensing order in April but were met with a denial.
In their complaint before the D.C. Circuit, they ask the court to review that denial.
James Pew of Earthjustice, a lawyer representing Waterkeepers Chesapeake, said the groups argue that FERC lacks the statutory authority to issue a license for the dam without including the water-quality certification that MDE issued in 2018 as a condition of that license.
The plaintiffs also make claims under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Power Act.
MDE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case is Waterkeepers Chesapeake, et al v. FERC, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, No. 21-1139.
For Waterkeepers Chesapeake, et al: James Pew of Earthjustice and Paul Smail of Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Sebastien Malo
Sebastien Malo reporters on environmental, climate and energy litigation. Reach him at sebastien.malo@thomsonreuters.com
More from Reuters
Play video on original page
Latest in Legal
U.S. Senate approves union lawyers to NLRB, giving Democrats control
5:18 PM PDT
9th Circ. denies challenge to EPA approval of Arizona ozone levels
5:22 PM PDT
Dell stops some U.S. gaming PC shipments over new efficiency rules
4:13 PM PDT
Bankruptcy reform debate targets bad corporate actors, popular judges
3:54 PM PDT

Sign up for The Daily Docket
Subscribe for our daily curated newsletter to receive the latest Reuters legal news and headlines delivered to your inbox.
Industry Insight
Industry Insight
Practice Innovations: Improving profitability and knowing where to focus your efforts
8:54 AM PDT
Industry Insight
Why SEO is the most sustainable way for law firms to acquire new clients
July 23, 2021
Industry Insight
Oregon takes a step forward in alternative licensure of attorneys
July 23, 2021
Industry Insight
Treasury issues ‘priorities’ required by AML Act, experts cite minimal value to compliance
July 19, 2021
About Reuters
About Reuters
Reuters News Agency
Brand Attribution Guidelines
Reuters Leadership
Reuters Fact Check
Reuters Diversity Report
Stay Informed
Download the App
Information you can trust
Reuters, the news and media division of Thomson Reuters, is the world’s largest multimedia news provider, reaching billions of people worldwide every day. Reuters provides business, financial, national and international news to professionals via desktop terminals, the world's media organizations, industry events and directly to consumers.
Follow Us
Thomson Reuters Products
Build the strongest argument relying on authoritative content, attorney-editor expertise, and industry defining technology.
The most comprehensive solution to manage all your complex and ever-expanding tax and compliance needs.
The industry leader for online information for tax, accounting and finance professionals.
Refinitiv Products
Information, analytics and exclusive news on financial markets - delivered in an intuitive desktop and mobile interface.
Refinitiv Data Platform
Access to real-time, reference, and non-real time data in the cloud to power your enterprise.
Screen for heightened risk individual and entities globally to help uncover hidden risks in business relationships and human networks.
Advertise With Us
Advertising Guidelines
Terms of Use
Site Feedback

All quotes delayed a minimum of 15 minutes. See here for a complete list of exchanges and delays.
© 2021 Reuters. All rights reserved