EPA to Miss Legal Deadline to Finalize 316(b) Cooling Water Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will today miss a legally set deadline to issue finalized standards for cooling water intake structures for all existing power generating facilities under Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act. 

The EPA’s 2004 Phase II Cooling Water Intake Structure rules were suspended in July 2007 in response to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Riverkeeper Inc., v. EPA. The agency secured more time under a modified settlement agreement with environmental groups, including Riverkeeper Inc., to finalize the standards after the two-week October 2013 government shutdown. The agency was required to take final action by Jan. 14.

But in a statement to POWERnews today, the EPA said it is “working to complete the final rule for cooling water intakes as soon as possible, but will not complete the rule by the settlement deadline of January 14, 2014.” The agency is in discussions with the parties to the settlement agreement about the timing for completing the rule.

In April 2011, the agency proposed new standards that could allow all facilities above a minimum size to install safeguards against the impingement of aquatic life. The proposal allows state officials to decide on a case-by-case basis—based on site-specific analysis—whether closed-cycle cooling systems and other technologies are required.

The April 2011 proposal combines Phase II and III into one rule and covers roughly 1,260 existing facilities—670 power plants—each of which withdraws at least 2 million gallons per day of cooling water.

Riverkeeper has warned that the proposed new rules allow power plants and other large industrial facilities to “continue destroying billions of fish and overheating trillions of gallons of water” from the nation’s rivers, lakes, estuaries and marine waters.”

Sonal Patel, associate editor(@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)

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