EPA delays rule on power plant cooling water

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it will miss by a month a its deadline to issue a regulation to minimize the impact of industrial and power plant water cooling structures on fish populations.

The rule is required by section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act. Green groups had sued the EPA for not issuing the rule, but settled when the agency agreed to finalize it. The most recent court-approved agreement had required the agency to issue the rule by Thursday.

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The EPA blamed the delay on its consultations with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, who are responsible for Endangered Species Act enforcement.

“In spite of its best efforts, EPA will not meet the April 17 deadline, but will require an additional 29 days, i.e., until May 16, 2014, to complete inter-agency consultation with the services,” the agency told a federal court.

Riverkeeper Inc., an alliance of green groups including Waterkeeper Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Environment America that brought the lawsuit against the EPA to force it to issue the regulation, blasted the EPA’s delay.

“EPA’s breach of the legal commitment it made to issue a final 316(b) rule by April 17 is yet the latest in a long string of failures by this agency to meet its own deadlines, leaving us no choice but to return to federal court where we can seek an order compelling the rule’s issuance,” Reed Super, an attorney for the group, said in a Thursday statement.

As the rule was proposed in 2011, plants that use water would have to slow the velocity of their intakes or find some other way to stop fish from being killed. Similar rules are already in place for new plants and new offshore and coastal oil rigs.

The District Court for the District of Southern New York has extended the EPA’s deadline for the rule five times, Riverkeeper said.