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The attorneys general of six Northeast states are suing the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a change to rules governing the
regulation of water in equipment power plants, the Associated Press reported.
In the lawsuit filed on Monday in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals in the states argue that the apparent relaxing of the requirement
for power plants to install “best technologies” will soon degrade the waterways
from which the plants pull their cooling water. They have asked the court to
review the change and want the EPA to halt the rule from going into effect
until the petition has been resolved, the Associated Press reported.
Rhode Island is the chief plaintiff in this case. The other
states involved are Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New
The Clean Water Act requires power plants to obtain permits
for water intake from and discharge to public sources. Cooling water intake
structures, according to this law, must "reflect the best technology
available for minimizing adverse environmental impact."
The attorneys general claim that EPA has raised cost above
environmental impact to make price the primary criterion as to whether a plant
needs to upgrade to newer, more environmentally friendly technology, the
Associated Press reported.
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. Water is drawn in, used to cool the system, and then
discharged back into the source from which it came. Closed-cycle technology,
which recycles cooling tower water, thus reducing the amount drawn from and
discharged into surrounding waterways, is now available. However, the law
states plants can get relief from such technology if the costs are "wholly
disproportionate" to the benefits, the Associated Press reported.
Rhode Island initiated the lawsuit primarily because of a
battle it has been having for years with the Brayton Point power plant in
Somerset, Mass. This power plant discharges approximately 1 billion gallons of
water per day into Mount Hope Bay at a temperature 30 degrees warmer than when
it was taken from the bay. The bay, which is shared by Massachusetts and Rhode
Island, has experienced a crash in the fish population,, which the state of
Rhode Island blames on these heated discharges. Environmental organizations
make the same charges.
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, the Associated Press reported.