Friday, December 01, 2006

EPA Reissues Strong Brayton Point Permit

EPA Region 1 today re-issued the discharge permit for Brayton Point power plant. The decision can be viewed on EPA's website here.

This is a major victory for the Bay, or at least a small part of one. The text of our press release follows:

Save The Bay Applauds
Strong EPA Permit for Brayton Point

For Immediate Release:
Dec. 1, 2006
Contact: John Torgan (401) 272-3540, ext. 116

Spalding calls for “aggressive” effort to make reach compliance

PROVIDENCE (December 1, 2006) – The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 1 today issued the final pieces of a permit requiring the Brayton Point power plant to reduce its use of water by roughly 95%. Today’s ruling by EPA responds to a 2003 appeal by the plant’s owners, Dominion Power of Virginia, and further appeals are likely.

“Brayton Point has been ruining Mount Hope Bay for decades and this permit is long overdue. EPA has done great work, but as long as this permit is under appeal the damage continues. We urge Dominion to accept the new permit conditions and begin an aggressive construction schedule to come back into compliance with the Clean Water Act,” said Curt Spalding, Executive Director.

Brayton Point Station, in Somerset Massachusetts, is New England’s largest and dirtiest power plant. Each day, the station withdraws nearly one billion gallons of water from the Bay to cool its generators, which it then discharges at temperatures of up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only does this process warm the shallow waters of Mount Hope Bay, Narragansett Bay’s northeastern arm, it also sucks in and destroys trillions of fish eggs and larvae each year.

In 1985, Brayton Point added a new cooling water intake and increased its discharge, and generating capacity, by about 45%. Immediately, fishermen began to report troubling declines in the local fish stocks, calling the once productive Mount Hope Bay “a dead zone”. A decade later, a study by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management documented an 87% decline in the fish populations of Mount Hope Bay, a trend not reflected in other parts of the Bay or New England region.

Save The Bay strongly advocated for the once-through cooling system to be banned. In 2002, EPA issued a draft discharge permit calling for Brayton Point’s flow to be reduced from nearly one billion to forty five million gallons per day. The plant’s owners appealed that permit to EPA’s Administrative Appeals Board (EAB) in Washington, DC. In February, 2006, the EAB handed down a ruling supporting Region 1’s permit in part, but remanding certain key parts back to the regional office. Today, EPA essentially upheld its original work.

After several 60-day administrative review windows, the permit is expected to be appealed to the US Court of Appeals 1st Circuit. During appeals, the existing operating regime of the plant will continue.


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