What is the River Footprint of Energy?

Author: Wendy Wilson

Last week EPA’s long-awaited new ruling on the use of water at existing U.S. power plants and other industrial facilities was finally published. The public comment period runs until June 19. Overall, the rule was poorly received by the groups whose legal actions motivated the agency to act in the first place and appears to miss a huge opportunity to protect and restore our rivers. What is needed is a clear rule focused on modernizing power plants by stopping the use of once-through cooling. EPA could have proposed a consistent and fair regulation (i.e., requiring best available technology across the country) but instead the agency proposed to take the 50-state patchwork quilt approach.

What does this mean to you? Is your river or lake is affected by one of the facilities shown on this map?

If your community is on this map, please take a few minutes to review this draft rule and share with us how it might affect your river. Do you think your state will establish a strong water conservation rules for cooling towers impacting your rivers and lakes? Or will your state participate in the environmental regulatory “race to the bottom” in hopes of enticing business away from other states?

The Campaign to Sustain Water and Energy is looking for examples and case studies that other river stewards can learn from. You can help us understand the impacts of cooling towers operating in your watershed right now. Please use the comment space below to share your perspective with other river leaders, or email your comments to me at wwilson@rivernetworkorg or Travis Leipzig at tleipzig@rivernetwork.org.

According to the USGS 53% of our fresh surface water in this country gets used in a thermoelectric cooling tower. Once-through cooling can be incredibly harmful because it relies on massive water withdrawals – approximately 80 trillion gallons per year from our nation’s water. Among other things, these withdrawals kill fish and aquatic organisms by the millions by “impinging” them on intake screens (i.e., trapping them against the screens by the pressure of the intake flow) and by “entraining” them through heat exchangers where they die due to physical, thermal and toxic stresses. Readily-available modern technology – known as closed-cycle cooling – recycles cooling water and reduces withdrawals and fish kills by 95 percent and is required for new plants.

check out EPA's proposed ruling fact sheet and the Riverkeeper’s campaign website for more information on the impacts of power plant cooling water. The proposed rule and related EPA documents can be found here

If you would like to help or have any questions, please contact me (Wendy, at wwilson@rivernetwork.org) or any of these other great resource people.

Rebecca Troutman,
Riverkeeper, Inc.
914-478-4501 ext. 241

Steve Fleischli,

Dalal Aboulhosn,
Sierra Club

Reed Super,
Super Law Group

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