EPA Punts on Cooling Water Rule; Despite Facts on the Ground, Decides Technology That Would Prevent Massive Fish Kills no Longer Feasible

by Amy Sinden | March 29, 2011

Around 6pm ET last night, after most reporters had wrapped up, EPA issued its long-awaited proposed cooling water rule. Under the Clean Water Act, this rule is supposed to protect the billions of fish and other aquatic organisms that are killed each day when they are squashed against intake screens or sucked up into cooling water systems at existing power plants and other industrial facilities. Unfortunately, the rule seems aimed more at protecting industry profits than fish. And in justifying the rule, EPA has taken a page right out of industry’s playbook, purporting to rely on cost-benefit analysis, even though no one can agree on how to attach a dollar value to a fish or an ecosystem.

Rather than requiring plants to use the sensible closed cycle cooling option, which reduces intake flows (and dead fish) by 95-98% by simply recycling the cooling water, EPA’s new rule would allow existing plants to continue to use the antiquated “once-through” cooling method as long as they attach buckets and other gizmos to their intake screens designed to try to catch fish that bounce off the screens and return them to open water. 

As for the organisms that get sucked up through the screens and “entrained” in the cooling water system itself, EPA’s new rule simply punts. Reduction in death by “entrainment” is simply left to a case-by-case permitting process to be administered by the states. This puts an untenable burden on the states, which we've seen ...

EPA Appears Poised To Give Troubling Role to Cost-Benefit Analysis In Setting Rules on Power Plant Cooling Water

by Amy Sinden | March 04, 2011
When it comes to the use of cost-benefit analysis in setting environmental rules, it looks like President Obama's EPA has taken a big swig of industry’s Kool-Aid. We'll know for sure soon: The EPA has a March 14 deadline to issue its proposed Clean Water Act rule on cooling water intake structures at existing power plants and other facilities. But all signs seem to be pointing toward a highly formalized cost-benefit analysis resulting in a weak rule – and a ...

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