News Feature | June 10, 2014

EPA Water Cooling Rules May Spark Legal Fight

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Water cooling regulations issued by the EPA in May are expected to draw an onslaught of court challenges, analysts said after the rules were finalized.

"The flexibility that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows power plants and factories in its long-delayed cooling water intake regulation will draw environmental challenges to both the overall measure and future permit decisions, experts say, with some groups already gearing up for a knock-down, drag-out legal fight over the rule," Law360 reported

The rules are designed "to protect fish and other aquatic life from cooling-water intake structures at existing power plants and factories," Engineering News-Record reported

But they have not entirely appeased environmentalists or industry. The regulation "has received lukewarm praise from some industry groups, but environmental advocates say they are deeply disappointed in the rule," the report said. 

Riverkeeper Inc., a coalition of environmental organizations, issued remarks stating that its members are "beyond disappointed," The Hill reported. The group previously brought the EPA to court in an effort to get these standards issued. 

“Unfortunately, EPA’s rule will perpetuate the unacceptable status quo that has allowed antiquated plants to withdraw nearly 100 trillion gallons of fresh and sea water each year, and indiscriminately kill fish and wildlife instead of recycling their cooling water or use dry cooling technology, as modern plants have done for the past three decades,” Reed Super, an attorney who worked on the case, said in The Hill

Other environmental groups echoed the sentiment.

“EPA has promulgated a largely worthless rule,” Steve Fleischli, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s water program, said per Bloomberg.

Industry groups issued unenthusiastic remarks about the rules, as well. 

“This impacts a number of manufacturing facilities, and each one is going to be different,” said Chip Yost, assistant vice president for energy at the National Association of Manufacturers, to Bloomberg. “We’ll have to see who packs up, [because the rules are too onerous.]"

Some industry officials were pleased the rules would not immediately require power plants to acquire new cooling systems. 

“We are pleased that EPA has avoided imposing a categorical one-size-fits-all approach to compliance,” said Tom Kuhn, the president of Edison Electric Institute, to Bloomberg.

"There is a lot of concern about cost because if you're forced to erect a cooling tower or a lot of different kinds of technology, then you're probably going to make a decision on whether or not the facility is a viable facility financially," said Brian Wolff of the Edison Electric Institute, to the Wall Street Journal

For more policy news, check out Water Online's Legislation and Regulations Solution Center.

Image credit: "Power plant №12," kishjar? © 2013, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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