Jul 30 2009

Shelby Shocked By Southern Company Taking Sides in Water Wars

Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala) today led the Alabama congressional delegation in sending a letter to Mr. David Ratcliffe, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Southern Company.  The letter expresses the delegation’s concern regarding the decision to have the President of Georgia Power serve on the State of Georgia’s state water task force in light of the recent federal district court ruling regarding the ongoing water wars between the States of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.

“In allowing Georgia Power’s president to play such a public role in Georgia’s negotiating strategy, Southern Company is clearly valuing the well-being of the people in Georgia over the citizens of Alabama and Florida,” said Shelby.  “Given Southern Company’s longstanding and large presence in Alabama, I am shocked it would choose one state’s interests over another.” 

In 1945-46, Congress authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct a dam and reservoir on the Chattahoochee River north of Atlanta for flood control, hydropower generation, and navigation support.  Under the Water Supply Act of 1958, Congress made clear that it must approve any major structural or operational changes to the project.  In 1990, Alabama and Florida filed suit, alleging that the Corps had violated the intention of Congress by allocating water for other purposes in Atlanta without congressional approval, thereby causing undue harm downstream in Alabama and Florida.

On Friday, July 17, 2009, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson ruled in favor in Alabama and Florida, affirming the states’ argument that operational changes allocating water for the Atlanta water supply require Congressional approval.  Judge Magnuson’s decision orders a freeze on current water withdrawal levels from the reservoir for three years to allow for Congressional action on the matter.  Absent such action, withdrawal levels will return to the much lower levels of the 1970’s.

The Court’s decision follows a federal appellate court ruling in 2008 that invalidated a secret agreement between Georgia and the Corps seeking to allocate an even larger share of the water in the reservoir to Atlanta.

The full text of the letter is below. 


July 30, 2009

 

Mr. David M. Ratcliffe
President and Chief Executive Officer
Southern Company
Bin SC1500
30 Ivan Allen, Jr. Boulevard, NW
Atlanta, Georgia  30308

Dear Mr. Ratcliffe ,

We are writing to express our disbelief as well as significant concerns regarding the decision to have the President of Georgia Power serve on the State of Georgia’s state water task force.

On July 17, the Jacksonville federal district court ruled in favor of Alabama and Florida’s position that operational changes along the ACF River System require Congressional authorization and gave Congress a three year timetable to address water allocation.  This ruling gives the three states a window of opportunity to return to the negotiating table to generate an equitable compromise – a compromise we believe could and should be reached by the three states’ governors.

Unfortunately, by joining the lobbying arm of Georgia, Southern Company has chosen to align itself with the interests of one state over the other two.  Given Southern Company’s longstanding and large presence in our state, we are simply astounded you would choose one state’s interests over another.  It would benefit your company to advocate on behalf of a fair solution for all stakeholders, not attempt to circumvent a solution by pursuing only a legislative remedy.

Governor Riley has stated his willingness on behalf of Alabama to continue to negotiate an agreement acceptable to all three states.   To undermine the spirit of collective compromise expressly offered by Alabama and Florida would be a great detriment to both our states’ interests and those of your company.  In allowing Georgia Power’s president to play such a public role in Georgia’s negotiating strategy, Southern Company is clearly valuing the well-being of the people in Georgia over the citizens of Alabama and Florida. 

We hope that you carefully assess the gravity of this decision and reevaluate the role Southern Company, and its subsidiaries, are willing to take in this matter.  Choosing sides will benefit no one.