Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act requires power plants to use the “best technology available” to minimize their adverse impacts on fish and other aquatic life.
In 2004 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a rule that would determine how existing power plants would be regulated based upon Section 316(b). A national coalition of environmental groups and a coalition of six states sued EPA because the rule set weak standards and allowed power plants to seek variances from using the “best technology available”: closed cycle cooling . Energy companies claimed that the cost of closed cycle cooling would be unreasonable, despite the destruction of billions of fish and other aquatic life forms occurring at hundreds of power plants around the country.
In April of 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling on the case. The court held that the federal Clean Water Act does not forbid—nor does it require—EPA from comparing costs with benefits when regulating power plant cooling water intakes.
The EPA recently released its latest draft rule for power plants and their effects on aquatic life, and asked for public comments through July 19th, 2011. The agency is expected to release a final rule in fall 2013.
Read comment letters from the Environmental Coalition -- of which GRACE/Network for New Energy Choices is a member -- on EPA’s draft 316(b) rule. See the Joint Comment Letter (10 pp, PDF) or Detailed Comments (198 pp., PDF).