Lawmakers, Clean-Water Advocates Team Up To Oppose Conowingo Pact

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The Conowingo Dam looking north up the Susquehanna River. (Jane Thomas/UMd Center for Environmental Studies)

Posted March 16, 2020

By Bryan Renbaum, MarylandReporter

- Republican and Democratic lawmakers joined clean-water advocates on Wednesday to declare their support for emergency legislation that would prohibit Maryland from waiving a water-quality certification in a settlement agreement with energy company Exelon for a 50-year federal license to operate the Conowingo Dam.

The legislation would effectively compel the state to withdraw from the settlement agreement. Exelon and the Maryland Department of the Environment signed the pact on Oct. 29, 2019.

The opponents to the agreement spoke ahead of a Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee hearing on the legislation, which began at 1 p.m. EDT. The House Environment and Transportation Committee held a hearing on the legislation on March 4.

“My district is immediately downstream from the dam and we’ve been feeling the effects of what we call ‘the Conowingo effect’ — for many, many years. And I’m old enough to remember when it worked well and I’m old enough to remember now that it doesn’t work well,” Del. Jay Jacobs (R-Kent) said at a news conference at the Lowe House Office Building in Annapolis.

“We are very concerned that what I think was a fair deal in 2018 at $172 million was very specific to conditions that should be addressed — were virtually just wiped aside. And a maximum of two hundred million dollars put on the table for the next fifty years — half of which was in basically cash…is woefully short of where we need to be in addressing the issues that are what we call ‘the ‘Conowingo effect, ” — referring to the increased pollution in the bay that has resulted from the dam.

Del. Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery) said the agreement would harm both the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland taxpayers.

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