EPA water rules change prompts NE lawsuit

A change to federal rules over water use by power plants triggered a lawsuit by the attorneys general of six Northeast states because they argue it fails to adequately protect water and fishery resources.

Jul 28th, 2004

PROVIDENCE, RI, July 26, 2004 -- A change to federal rules over water use by power plants triggered a lawsuit Monday by the attorneys general of six Northeast states because they argue it fails to adequately protect water and fishery resources.

The suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was filed in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston by lead plaintiff Rhode Island. It's joined by Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York in contesting the change.

The states claim power plants can avoid upgrading technologies to help reduce the amount of water they use from oceans, bays and rivers with the change, thus degrading water quality and harming the environment. They're asking the court to stop the new rule, published July 9 in the Federal Register, from being implemented until it has a chance to review their petition and the environmental implications.

New York Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer said the change violates the Clean Water Act and would seriously harm the aquatic environment if left unchallenged. An EPA spokesperson noted the rule marks the first time the agency has established national guidelines under the Act to protect fish, shellfish and other aquatic animals.

Power plants must obtain permits for water discharges under the Clean Water Act, which also limits how much water can be taken from public sources used by many plants in cooling towers. Cooling towers also are required to use the "best technology available" for minimizing adverse environmental impacts. The states allege modified language on this last issue has weakened the rule and threatens the environment.

For additional information, see the news release on the petition at the Rhode Island Attorney General's office (see: www.riag.state.ri.us/public/pr.php?ID=254). You also can find background on the new rule at the EPA website (see: www.epa.gov/waterscience/316b/ph2.htm).

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