Consent decree holds Electron Hydro accountable to Washington State Department of Ecology clean water oversight; criminal and civil charges are still being pursued
Update: May 20, 2022
Puget Soundkeeper and Communities for a Healthy Bay are pleased to announce the finalization of an agreement with Electron Hydro LLC, locking the company into a clear timeline for compliance with the Clean Water Act. Electron Hydro must apply for a NPDES permit within 180 days of May 20, 2022, and must pursue the permit in good faith with the Washington State Department of Ecology.
This agreement resolves only a subset of the pollution claims brought against the dam operator and is one of many regulatory measures currently being pursued to hold Electron Hydro accountable for its alleged pollution of the Puyallup river.
“This settlement is by no means the end of the story for this dam,” said Sean Dixon, Executive Director at Puget Soundkeeper. “It means that one piece of the puzzle, bringing the facility into coverage under the Clean Water Act for the first time in its history, is forever locked in.”
The company is not currently operating its dam due to an injunction filed by the Puyallup Tribe in its Endangered Species Act case. The dam will remain closed until further notice, and the company is still facing criminal and civil charges brought by Washington State, the United States, and the Puyallup Tribe. Puget Soundkeeper and Communities for a Healthy Bay remain intervenors in ongoing civil litigation.
Puyallup River, Washington (March 3, 2022). Electron Hydro LLC and its Chief Operating Officer Thom Fischer have agreed to apply for a Clean Water Act permit for the Electron Dam facility as part of a consent decree with Communities for a Healthy Bay and Puget Soundkeeper, days after a judge denied Electron Hydro’s motion to stay legal proceedings.
The agreement reached today will resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act associated with routine dam operations, specifically, alleged unpermitted discharges of pollutants including heat, dead and dying fish, sediments, oils, greases, lubricants, and any other pollutants.
If the Court approves the settlement, Electron Hydro will have to apply to the Washington Department of Ecology [Ecology] for a clean water permit to manage and monitor pollutant discharges from Electron’s facilities. Ecology’s permit process will involve public review and input. Puget Soundkeeper and Communities for a Healthy Bay will engage in that process to ensure that the permit is protective of the river.
“This is the first of many enforcement hammers to fall on Electron for their activities at the Electron Dam,” said Melissa Malott, Executive Director at Communities for a Healthy Bay. “This case is far from over, and we will transition our focus to supporting the federal agencies in holding Electron accountable. We won’t stop until we have full protection for this river.”
Electron Hydro and Mr. Fischer, the run-of-the-river dam owner and operator, will continue to face multiple criminal and civil charges over other alleged Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act violations at the facility on the Puyallup River near Orting, Washington. This consent decree does not provide specific relief on claims regarding Electron’s construction project at the dam site, field turf discharges during the summer of 2020, and the company’s subsequent work to winterize the site. Both Communities for a Healthy Bay and Puget Soundkeeper will continue to act as intervenors, alongside the Puyallup Tribe, in those proceedings—even with the agreement reached today.
“Today’s agreement sets the stage for the future,” said Katelyn Kinn, Senior Attorney at Puget Soundkeeper. “As a host of other allegations work their way through state and federal courts, we will continue to stand beside the Puyallup Tribe, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the State of Washington in this fight to protect the Puyallup River.”
CHB and Puget Soundkeeper began investigating the Electron Dam in the fall of 2020 after learning of allegations that workers at the facility had used artificial field turf during a construction project, much of which later washed down the Puyallup River. After their investigations, the organizations launched a legal challenge under the federal Clean Water Act alleging extensive violations at the dam. Subsequently, the United States and State of Washington commenced civil and criminal enforcement actions against the owners and operators of Electron Dam.
“This settlement is a vital first step toward holding Electron Hydro fully accountable to federal and state clean water laws,” said Sean Dixon, Executive Director at Puget Soundkeeper. “With this agreement, we’re confident that permit coverage will ensure more robust oversight of this facility’s operations, and a more direct path for communities to hold the dam responsible for any pollution violations in the future.
PSK and CHB are represented by Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC an environmental law firm with offices in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon.
Sean Dixon; Executive Director, Puget Soundkeeper; (206) 297-7002 x101 firstname.lastname@example.org
Melissa Malott; Executive Director, Communities for a Healthy Bay; (253) 444-7039; email@example.com