- The Obama administration Environmental Protection Agency released regulations containing a range of seven options plant operators can implement to reduce the annual two billion fish, crab, or shrimp kills at power plant water intakes.
- Threatening to sue to force strong closed-cycle standards in which cooling water is re-used, environmentalists such as Riverkeeper argue EPA’s new rules dodge responsibility by leaving key decisions to state regulators. EPA argues such a standard would be worse for land availability and air emissions and cost $3.5 billion.
- Power companies operating large coal or nuclear plants, such as Entergy, Exelon, and Duke Energy that will bear the burden of the estimated $275 million annual cost of the water-intake standards covering 1,065 factories and electric utilities, urged EPA to provide local flexibility and time to meet them and called the new rules “too onerous.”
Among the options left to plant operators in the new standard are (1) the choice to slow their water intake to let fish swim away, or (2) the choice to take a specified number of fish in a screen.
This EPA rule is another of the Obama administration’s efforts to balance environmental stewardship and power plant costs but the new EPA measures could, according to generators, drive up electricity costs and force older plants, especially coal plants, out of business.
An estimated 14 gigawatts of coal-fired generation shuttered in 2011 and 2012 and another 63 gigawatts are projected to shut down by 2017, in part due to tougher regulations and in part because of low natural gas prices.
To prevent more rapid closures of older plants, the EPA designed the fish kill regulations to be more flexible and allow plant owners to develop more cost effective plans in partnership with state and local officials.
Under the new rules, new plants built at an existing site must design closed-cycle systems, or take equivalent actions.