The South Carolina Court of Appeals, siding with the environmental groups, reinstated a state decision that denies a new water quality permit Duke Energy would need for ongoing operation of its hydroelectric dam on the Wateree River, The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., reported Thursday.
Conservationists said Duke Energy must allow more water through the dam to improve water quality downstream and safeguard the shortnose sturgeon, a federally listed endangered species.
Duke Energy said it is weighing its next moves, which could including taking the case to the South Carolina Supreme Court.
"Duke Energy is disappointed," spokeswoman Erin Culbert said of the decision, noting the court ruling was a split one. "We are evaluating our options for next steps."
Duke, by law, will operate the dam under current rules until the matter is resolved in court.
An attorney representing environmental groups said the court made the right decision.
"It would have been a crying shame for South Carolina and its people to lose the right to protect the water quality in this state," Frank Holleman, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said.