I hadn’t planned on writing again on this topic this soon, but it‘s raised its ugly head again in the news. The Raleigh News & Observer today published an article: Public agency considered for Yadkin hydropower . This is, if not the same, a variation on the Yadkin River Trust which the state legislature defeated in mid-2010, 66 - 39. Keith Crisco, of all people, said it conjures “an image of big, bad state government taking over.” But then, he goes on to say it’d be okay if the public agency were centered in the six counties near the Yadkin Project.
The entire article is a bit vague on who the State and civic leaders behind this are, or what the public agency is. But, the description seems to fit the Uwharrie Regional Resources Commission (URRC), which someone in the state legislature hastily created after it became apparent that the Yadkin River Trust legislation could not pass, behind closed doors in Raleigh, with no public comment. The enabling legislation for the URRC sounds inocuous, does not mention Alcoa, and appears to be something entirely different than an agency to control the Yadkin Project. Yet, there’s been suspicion. The appointments to the Commission have been stacked with obvious proponents of a state takeover. There is nothing about the URRC that does not smack of big bad government. The entire thing was crammed down the public’s throat.
Now, I’ll grant you, promises are being made of all the benefits this would have. It would be “clean” energy, something which has been overlooked when talking about Alcoa producing it all these years. It would bring thousands of jobs. Really? After they’ve paid off the cost of buying it? After they’ve done all the thorough (far above usual standards) environmental cleanup in the entire basin they’ve also promised? After they’ve kept their promises to give some of the money to community colleges? We have asked repeatedly for a realistic financial model, and all we’ve ever gotten is pie-in-the-sky promises.
And I still have to ask, what do they think gives them the right to take over a privately owned business, especially since it‘s just become obvious that the State does not own the riverbed? Alcoa bought the property, built the dams and powerhouses, has maintained them all these years, developed the business, pays its taxes, just like any other business. The examples they’re using, in South Carolina and New York, were state owned, developed, and operated from the beginning. They did not occur by seizing a private business. If the State of North Carolina wants to build its own dams, more power to them (pun intended). But these kinds of government shenanigans make me wonder what country I’m living in.