Greens sue for tougher rules to protect fish

A coalition of environmental groups filed lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking tougher standards to protect fish from industrial cooling water intake devices.

The groups, which include the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club, said Tuesday the EPA should have mandated that more than 1,000 power plants and other industrial facilities use closed-cycle cooling water systems, which reduce fish deaths by about 95 percent.

The EPA announced water intake system standards in May to reduce the chances that fish and other aquatic animals could be caught in the systems or taken into them. Most facilities will be allowed to choose from seven technologies, including closed-cycle cooling, to reduce fish injuries, though the largest operations will have to do more.

“EPA acknowledges that closed-cycle cooling is the most protective technology, and the agency’s own regulations have long required new plants to use it,” Reed Super, lead attorney for Riverkeeper Inc. and some of the other groups, said in a statement.

“EPA’s recent decision to allow existing plants to continue using antiquated technology that decimates aquatic life violates the Clean Water Act and will not stand up in court,” he said.

“EPA’s rule does almost nothing to protect our fisheries and waterways from the destructive impacts of power plants, despite the widespread availability of technology to address these impacts,” said Steve Fleischli, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s water program director.

Shortly after the rule was announced, some of the groups involved in the new litigation said they would likely sue. The new rule was spurred by a Riverkeeper lawsuit filed in 1992 to force the rule to be issued, two decades after the Clean Water Act that mandated it was passed.

The rule was published in the Federal Register last month.