Appeals court invalidates federal license for Conowingo Dam

December 20, 2022 GMT

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A U.S. appeals court invalidated a federal license for the Conowingo Dam in Maryland on Tuesday, sending it back to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for further proceedings.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agreed with environmental groups that FERC exceeded its authority when it approved a 50-year license last year without including the water quality certification that Maryland issued in 2018.

Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, ShoreRivers, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation challenged the state’s Conowingo Dam settlement with Constellation Energy, arguing that it failed to protect water quality in the Susquehanna River, the Chesapeake Bay’s primary tributary.

“Maryland leaders now have the opportunity to directly address the negative downstream impacts of the dam through a new license complete with a state water quality certification,” said Alison Prost, the bay foundation’s vice president of environmental protection and restoration.

Paul Adams, a spokesman for Constellation, said the company is still reviewing the court order, but it was surprised and disappointed in the decision.

“No one who cares about clean air and the health of the Chesapeake Bay should be cheering this decision, which potentially jeopardizes the state’s largest source of renewable energy and could disrupt up to $700 million that Constellation pledged for environmental programs, projects and other payments that directly benefit water quality, aquatic life and citizens living on and near the bay,” Adams said in a statement.

The $700 million in funding includes $225 million from a settlement agreement with the state, up to $300 million from a settlement agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and about $175 million from FERC license requirements for recreational facilities and environmental requirements, Adams noted.