Tara Monks / California adopts regulations to restrict marine water usage by power plants

California adopts regulations to restrict marine water usage by power plants

Environmental lawyer alert: California adopted rules under the Clean Water Act that prevents power plants from using marine water to cool power turbines.

Power plants must eliminate once-through cooling systems
California adopts regulations to restrict marine water usage by power plants

// West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Tara Monks // Tara Monks
San Francisco, CA – A policy establishing standards that will work to implement the federal Clean Water Act and reduce the harmful effects of once-through cooling systems within power plants was proposed on April 13, 2010. The policy draft was made available on the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.

On Tuesday, May 4, 2010, the policy was adopted by the California Water Resources Control Board. The new requirements will force power plants to cease the practice of repeatedly using marine water to cool their turbines. The regulations will affect 19 power plants, two of which are nuclear, in California. The plants currently possess the ability to take in over 15 billion gallons of water a day from California’s coastal and estuarine waters.

Once-through cooling is the act of taking in ocean or river water in order to cool power turbines. After the water runs through the plant, it is then returned to its source at higher temperatures. The systems kill approximately 2.6 million fish, 19 billion fish larvae and 57 sea turtles, sea lions and seals every year, according to the California Water Resources Control Board.

Dynegy Inc., a power-plant owner, criticized the regulations, stating the rules will force the company to shut down at least two plants. Other companies that will be subject to the regulations are the AES Corp., PG&E and Mirant Corp. Some of the plants are already slated to be shut down or renovated. It is estimated that renovations could cost billions.

AES, based out of Arlington, Virginia, already plans to replace or retrofit its Huntington Beach and Alamitos plants with alternative cooling systems.

The majority of the power plants will have until 2015 to comply with the rules. Plants in Los Angeles will have until 2020, due to the area’s complex and challenging power requirements. The two nuclear power plants will have until 2024 and 2011 to comply with the rules, according to the new policy.

This policy was developed through regular meetings with representatives from the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Coastal Commission, the California State Lands Commission, the California Air Resources Board and the California Independent System Operator.

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