Alcoa and the State Division of Water Quality are at odds about how to move forward with the aluminum company's hydropower license on the Yadkin River.
Alcoa says "it's time for a fresh start." Opponents say the company's trying to "have its cake and eat it too."
Alcoa has spent the last year negotiating with state regulators to get a water quality certificate for its Yadkin River dams reinstated. The Division of Water Quality gave Alcoa approval in 2009 but later revoked that certificate when internal Alcoa emails surfaced suggesting the company misled state regulators about its ability to meet water quality standards.
The dispute is set to go to trial in the coming months, but Alcoa has filed a motion to dismiss the case.
Dean Naujoks of the Yadkin Riverkeeper thinks that would let Alcoa off too easy, "because we firmly believe Alcoa would be proven guilty. . . that they did falsify their compliance to (water quality standards.)"
Alcoa has long maintained the state misinterpreted those emails, but company spokesman Mike Belwood now says the dust-is water under the bridge, so to speak.
"We believe our original water quality certificate was correctly issued and wrongly revoked, but at this point we believe re-applying for a new one is the best opportunity to clearly reaffirm our commitment to meeting the water quality standards and providing the state this new opportunity to consider the new data that we have available," says Belwood.
New data shows water quality has improved at some of Alcoa's dams recently as a result of $5 million in upgrades.
But state regulators are not ready to let Alcoa start completely fresh with a new water quality certificate unless the company agrees to drop the old dispute entirely. Alcoa has only asked for its appeal to be dismissed "without prejudice" which is a legal maneuver that means the company could try to get its original certificate reinstate if it doesn't like the terms of a new one from the state.
The state's response so far is "you can't have it both ways."
Now a judge decides.