U.S. Water News Online
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The attorneys general of six Northeast
states are suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency over new
rules governing water use by power plants, saying it fails to protect
the states' water and fisheries.
Rhode Island is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in the 1st
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. The states claim the EPA has
relaxed the need for power plants to install "best technologies" on
the amount of water they take in from waterways, such as oceans, bays
and rivers. They argue the change will degrade the water and harm the
They've asked the court to review the Phase II rules, published
July 9 in the Federal Register, and want the EPA to halt the rule
from going into effect until the petition has been resolved.
The other states involved are Connecticut, Delaware,
Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
"Once again, EPA has put the demands of power plant operators
ahead of what is best for our environment," New York Attorney General
Eliot Spitzer said. "These rules (changes) violate the Clean Water
Act and, if left unchallenged, will do serious harm to the aquatic
Cynthia Bergman, a spokeswoman for the EPA in Washington, said the
rule marks the first time the agency has established national
guidelines under the Clean Water Act to protect fish, shellfish, and
other aquatic animals from death or injury.
"The benefits are enormous, (and) we will vigorously defend this
rule," she said in a statement.
The Clean Water Act requires power plants to obtain permits for
their water discharges. The permit also sets the amount of water the
plants can take in from public sources, which many do to use in their
cooling towers. The rules require the cooling water intake structures
"reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse
The attorneys general claim the EPA has tweaked the rules by
lending a more sympathetic ear to the costs of upgrading to
closed-cycle technology, which reduces the total amount of water the
plants need to use. Most plants have a once-through cooling system,
which has no recycling capabilities.
The law states plants can get relief from such technology if the
costs are "wholly disproportionate" to the benefits.
"They're making cost a primary consideration, and not impact (to
the environment)," Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch told
The Associated Press.
Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said "we cannot allow
the federal government to impose rules that allow power plant
operators to damage vast bodies of water and destroy massive numbers
Rhode Island has battled for years with the Brayton Point power
plant in Somerset, Mass. over its intake of water from Mount Hope Bay
and its heated discharges into it. The bay is shared by Massachusetts
and Rhode Island. Lynch has blamed the coal-fired plant's intake of
water from Mount Hope Bay for causing a crash in the fish population
-- notably winter flounder and tautog -- and for impairing the bay.
Environmental organizations make the same charges.
Last October, The EPA and Massachusetts Department of
Environmental Protection set a permit requiring Brayton Point to
reduce its heated water emissions by 96 percent. It also would
require the plant to cut its water intake by 94 percent.
Brayton Point takes in about 1 billion gallons of water from Mount
Hope Bay daily, an amount equal to draining the 14-square mile body
about seven times a year. The plant returns what it took at as much
as 30 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than before, according to EPA
Brayton Point has appealed the guidelines to the Environmental
Appeals Board in Washington. It also has said it would challenge the
EPA's assessment of the plant's damage to the bay.
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