The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a proposal that would allow power plants and other industrial facilities to pay to replace fish sucked into their cooling water intakes as an alternative to installing equipment to keep them out. It might also include forgoing the need to replace once-through cooling systems with closed-cycle systems. EPA announced the proposal in March in response to a suit by a New York state environmental group accusing the agency of failing to enforce 1972 Clean Water Act requirement to use the best technology available for minimizing the effects of cooling water withdrawals.
EPA said its proposal also would allow states and American Indian tribes to evade nationwide standards for industrial cooling systems if they can show the costs of meeting them are excessive or the body of water affected is of little value. EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said her agency was offering a broad range of options that would apply to certain existing plants that use large amounts of cooling water.
“This is not a one-size-fits-all regulation. It allows local decision-makers discretion to determine the best course of action to solve potential problems,” she said.