Group Launches Program to Help Utilities Comply with 316(b)

In February 2004, new EPA rules will go into effect governing the intake of cooling waters into power plants. These rules will implement national standards for Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act...

In February 2004, new EPA rules will go into effect governing the intake of cooling waters into power plants. These rules will implement national standards for Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act, which specifically requires that the location, design, construction, and capacity of cooling water intake structures reflect the best technology available for minimizing environmental impact on fish and other aquatic life.

EPRIsolutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has launched a program to advise utilities on how best to comply with the new rules.

Dave Bailey, manager of EPRIsolutions' new 316(b) Risk Assessment and Compliance Support Services, chaired the Utility Water Act Group's Cooling Systems Committee, which oversaw industry's 316(b) negotiations with EPA.

"EPRIsolutions is teaming with Alden Research Laboratory and ASA Analysis and Communication to assist companies with affected facilities in developing a cost-effective compliance strategy and evaluating their financial exposure under Section 316(b)," Bailey said.

Power plant cooling water intake structures can pull large numbers of fish and shellfish, or their eggs, through the cooling system where the organisms may be killed or injured by heat, physical stress, or by chemicals used to clean the system. Larger organisms may be killed or injured when they are trapped against screens at the front of the intake structure that is designed to keep out debris.

The new rules affect power plants that take in more than 50 million gallons per day of cooling water — usually from lakes, rivers, estuaries, or oceans. More than 500 power plants could be affected.

Under provisions of the anticipated EPA rules, these plants will be required to meet the agency's "technology-based performance standards" or may be eligible for a site-specific process that takes into account benefits and costs. The rules also allow permit holders to voluntarily achieve the performance standards by showing they can produce equivalent results using environmental "restoration" techniques, such as habitat restoration, aquaculture, or other environmental restoration techniques within the watershed. For many existing power plants, compliance with the rules could entail installing new equipment or substantially modifying their cooling water intakes.

"Our approach to compliance strategy planning considers the site-specific flexibility in the proposed rule," Bailey said. "It includes evaluating various compliance options, such as use of alternative technologies, or restoration measures in combination with, or as an alternative to, fish protection technologies, or the development of site-specific standards.

"The environmental impacts of power plant cooling and the performance of technologies to prevent unintended effects on fish vary widely from plant to plant and depend largely on local conditions," he added. "The best solution for fish and wildlife protection in one locale may not be the best in another. But, the complexity of the rule presents challenges for companies in developing a cost-effective compliance strategy."

For more information on the EPRIsolutions' 316(b) Business Risk Assessment service contact the EPRI Customer Assistance Center at 800-313-3774 or at askepri@epri.com.

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