RICHMOND, VA—On Sept. 2, 2014, NELC filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, challenging the adequacy of the Environmental Protection Agency‘s August 2014 rules governing cooling water intake at existing power plants and large manufacturing facilities. In all, six petitions for review were filed by environmental and industry groups, in six separate circuit courts of appeal. Under the random selection process dictated by federal statute, all of these cases were then consolidated in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

Cooling water intake systems pull in water from rivers, lakes, and estuaries to cool machinery at industrial facilities. The new regulations, which apply to 1,065 facilities across the country, fail to establish a national standard requiring the best technology available. Instead, the regulations rely on a case-by-case approach that would allow large companies to negotiate weak permit terms.

NELC’s petition for review, filed on behalf of Environment America and Environment Massachusetts, argues that EPA must require the installation of closed cycle cooling, or another system that achieves results similarly protective of aquatic life.

Before the merits of these and other challenges to the new rules are reviewed, the Fourth Circuit will first decide whether it is the appropriate forum to conduct this review. Environmental groups have asked that the cases be transferred to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, NY. The Second Circuit heard the appeals of the first two phases of EPA’s cooling water rules, and the new regulations were issued, in part, in response to that court’s previous rulings.