EPA Finalizes Cooling Water Intake Rule - CWA § 316(b)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or Agency) has announced that it will finalize its regulations for cooling water intake systems under § 316(b) of the Clean Water Act on May 16, 2014. EPA was initially ordered to segment the rulemaking process into three phases. After completion, the Second Circuit remanded Phases II and back to the Agency for reconsideration.  This new rule combines both phases into one final regulation. According to EPA, it balances the need of thousands of power and industrial facilities across the country to use water for cooling systems while minimizing the impacts on nearby aquatic ecosystems.

The rule consists of the three critical features:

  • Impingement Limits: Existing facilities that draw more than 2 million gallons of water per day from a nearby waterbody, making up 25% of the facilities’ overall cooling intake, must adhere to the upper limits of fish impingement standards. Facilities can also meet this standard by limiting intake flows to 0.5 feet per second.
  • Aquatic Studies:  Existing facilities that draw more than 125 million gallons of water per day must now study and analyze their systems to determine how best to minimize the numbers of organisms sucked into or entrained by the water cooling process.
  • Closed-Cycle Technology: Existing facilities that add generation capacity must design the new system to withdraw minimum amounts of water from adjacent water bodies.      

As always, if you have questions regarding the information in this Alert, please contact one of the following members of Verrill Dana’s Environmental Law Group: