BOSTON—In September, NELC attorneys filed a petition with the First Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations governing the intake of cooling water at major industrial facilities.
Across the country, industrial facilities take in water from surrounding lakes, rivers, or bays to cool their machinery, killing trillions of aquatic organisms in the process. The new regulations, which apply to 1,065 existing power plants and manufacturing facilities, fail to mandate what the Clean Water Act requires: a national standard requiring “the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental consequences.”
As a result, fish and other aquatic organisms will continue to be killed and injured by the intake of billions of gallons of cooling water at these facilities each year.
Unless the new regulations are improved, citizen groups seeking safer intake measures with less environ- mental impact will have to challenge each one of the 1,065 cooling water permits separately, while facing the daunting task of “outdueling” well- heeled companies and their hired consultants in each case.
The EPA has set the bar at the level that can be achieved by the worst- performing facilities, rather than the best ones.
The EPA has determined that water intake systems cause potential harm to aquatic organisms in two ways: by entrainment (killing or injuring aquatic organisms by drawing them into and pulling them through the cooling water intake apparatus), and impingement (killing or injuring aquatic organisms by pinning them against the cooling water intake screen).
The EPA has determined that closed cycle cooling is “indisputably the most efficient technology at reducing entrainment.” Rather than requiring this technology, however, the new regulations essentially set the bar at the level that can be achieved by the worst-performing facilities, not the best.
Further, the regulations rely on a case-by-case approach that will al- low large companies to use lawyers and consultants to overpower citi- zen opposition and negotiate weak permit terms.
NELC will argue that a better approach, and one that complies with the Clean Water Act, is to require the installation of closed cycle cooling or another system that achieves similarly protective results, while allowing case-by-case exceptions for those facilities that can prove that such technology is not practical at their particular location.