Gov. Bev Perdue unexpectedly filed papers Thursday in the Alcoa relicensing saga that support the opponents of a state-issued permit.
Earlier this month, state water-quality officials issued a permit Alcoa needs to renew its federal hydroelectric license for the Yadkin River.
The permit from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources was the final approval needed before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issues the license.
Perdue, however, has asked the commission for a four-month delay in which to make her case that the license should be denied to Alcoa and returned to the state.
Alcoa has called Perdue’s involvement a government attempt to seize private property.
The Yadkin Riverkeeper and Stanly County, which are concerned about contamination in Badin Lake, near Alcoa’s former aluminum smelter, appealed the permit in a state administrative-law court.
At a hearing Wednesday, the Riverkeeper and Stanly County asked for a temporary stay of the permit.
The state environment department didn’t oppose the request, agreeing that a stay is in the public interest.
Then a lawyer representing Perdue unexpectedly appeared. He asked the judge for permission to file a friend-of-the-court brief on Stanly County’s side.
The brief, filed Thursday, said Perdue “intends to vigorously oppose” Alcoa’s license. Stanly, it said, “has raised questions going directly to the welfare of our environment, the life of the Yadkin River and, ultimately, the health and safety of the people of this state. …”
The environment department’s view, the brief said, is that the Badin Lake contamination is stable and presents no health risks. Stanly disputes that, it said, claiming the contaminants could spread, tainting fish and downstream waters.
State water-quality officials, in issuing the permit, attached seven conditions including that Alcoa monitor contamination. Those conditions, they said, would protect the Yadkin’s water.