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EPA Takes Actions to Protect Aquatic Life, Commercial and Recreational Fishing at Facilities Nationwide

Release Date: 11/03/2004
Contact Information:


Contact: Cathy Milbourn 202-564-7824 / milbourn.cathy@epa.gov

(11/03/04) For the first time, EPA is proposing to protect fish, shellfish and other aquatic life from inadvertently being destroyed by cooling water intake structures at existing facilities and new offshore oil and gas facilities nationwide. For any existing facility, EPA is proposing three options for public comment: setting requirements for facilities that withdraw more than 50 million gallons of water per day, 100 million gallons a day from one of the Great Lakes or in coastal areas, or more than 200 million gallons of water per day. Depending upon the options chosen, EPA estimates that this proposal would protect between 30 million and 50 million aquatic organisms annually from death or injury, depending on the size and number of facilities covered by the rule. The benefits to commercial and recreational fishing range from $1.3 million to $1.9 million per year. There are likely to be other benefits, such as more robust and productive aquatic ecosystems at these facilities. EPA estimates the proposed rule would affect between 19 and 136 existing facilities and have compliance costs between $17 million and $47 million per year. One hundred twenty-four new offshore and coastal oil and gas facilities would also be regulated at a cost of $3.2 million. The rule would cost state and federal agencies between $500,000 and $1 million annually to administer, for a total annual cost of the rule between $21 million and $51 million.

This new proposal would require existing facilities to meet performance standards to reduce the number of organisms pinned against parts of the cooling water intake structure by 80 to 95 percent. Depending on location, the amount of water withdrawn, and energy generation, certain facilities will also have to meet performance standards to reduce the number of aquatic organisms drawn into the cooling system by 60 to 90 percent. These ranges represent differences among facilities and nearby aquatic environments. To offer these facilities flexibility to comply, facilities would have several compliance alternatives to meet the performance standards. The alternatives include using existing technologies, selecting additional fish protection technologies (such as screens with fish return systems) and using restoration measures. This is the third and last in a series of rules EPA committed to write in a 1995 consent decree, Riverkeeper v.Leavitt. The first rule, “Phase I,” established requirements for new power plants and factories. The second rule, “Phase II,” addressed existing power plants designed to use more than 50 million gallons of cooling water per day. Public comments on this proposal should be submitted no later than 120 days after publication in the Federal Register. Information on this proposal and other cooling water intake regulation are available at: http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/316b/ .