EPA Again Refuses to Prevent Massive Fish Kills

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week proposed standards for facilities that use natural waters to cool equipment, but the proposal does not require technology that would prevent millions of fish from being sucked in with the water.

In the proposed rule, EPA said it would allow states to decide how to manage ecological impacts, rather than requiring readily available technology that recycles water in the facility. This is the second time EPA has gone through this rulemaking, and the second time it has chosen not to require a closed system for cooling water intake structures.

Environmentalists are unhappy with the proposal. Reed Super, an attorney that represents environmental groups, said, “EPA has the ability to set national standards that would protect the environment with readily-available and affordable technology, but has instead abdicated the responsibility to state agencies who are simply not equipped to make these decisions alone.”

We’re not talking about just a handful of fish here. Environmentalists estimate that billions of fish can be killed by just one of these structures. “EPA’s proposal will perpetuate the unacceptable status quo that has allowed antiquated plants to withdraw nearly 100 trillion gallons from our waters each year and indiscriminately kill fish and wildlife, instead of recycling their cooling water as modern plants have for the last three decades,” Super said.

It is unclear why EPA chose a less protective option, but one cannot help but wonder whether the agency is gun shy after months of nonstop scrutiny in Congress, which is peeved by seemingly every new requirement EPA proposes. The Senate may vote as soon as today on legislation that would strip the EPA of its authority to regulate carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. Might EPA be attempting to preempt criticism with a more industry-friendly – and therefore more Congress-friendly – proposal?

back to Blog