The Los Angeles Times finally ran its long-awaited article on the state’s proposed rule to phase out California’s ecologically devastating once-through cooling power plants over the next 12-14 years. Not surprisingly, reporter Jill Leovy missed the point.
She omitted any discussion of the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act to use Best Available Control Technology to reduce larval entrainment and fish impingment in power plants. Federal courts all the way up to the Supreme Court have upheld the requirement, under section 316b of the act.
And once-through cooling (OTC) doesn’t fit anyone’s definition of Best Available Control Technology. Energy plants that use OTC literally suck the life out of the ocean, diverting millions of gallons of seawater via intake pipes to cool themselves. Somehow, the fact that every coastal power plant in California is in gross violation of the Clean Water Act didn’t get included in the article.
The Times piece didn’t include any information from the reporter’s interviews with the State Water Board or the energy agencies (California Energy Commission, Public Utilities Commission and the California Independent System of Operators) that support the draft policy.
If the Times did include this information, the reader would have seen that nearly all of the coastal power plants need to be repowered anyway because they use arcane, energy inefficient technologies. Also, the reader would have seen how California wants to move forward with the policy to self determine how OTC will get phased out rather than waiting for a one-size-fits-few approach from the federal EPA.
Instead, we got the usual “it’s too expensive to protect the environment” argument. The overly simplistic thesis props up the mistaken belief that the enviros are at war with the entire power industry.
Further inflaming the media-manufactured battle, the article included quotes from David Freeman, the acting G.M. at LADWP. David does not speak for the city of Los Angeles. And the Mayor’s office and the City Council have not taken a position on the policy.
Freeman, a legendary advocate for green power, is not exactly an expert at protecting wildlife. The state’s estimate is that OTC power plants kill between 8%-30% of Southern California nearshore sportfish. That’s a huge impact.
The OTC policy is needed just as much to protect local fisheries as the network of Marine Protected Areas. It would be great for the fishing community to end its silence on the issue and make it clear to the state that the OTC policy is needed to protect members’ livelihood and recreation.
All of the noise about getting rid of coal vs. protecting coastal waters, and the cost of compliance, has given the state cold feet.
In particular, the nuclear power plants’ arguments that getting rid of OTC is too expensive in comparison to the benefits of greenhouse-free power have resonated in Sacramento. As a result, the final policy has been stuck in the Governor’s office for about a month and the hearing on the policy has been delayed multiple times until mid April.
The bottom line — the proposed rule is good for California at many levels. Every major enviro group in the state supports a strong policy, from NRDC to Sierra Club to all of the Coastkeepers to HtB. Even the energy groups are in support. It protects California’s coastal ecosystems. And it will act as a catalyst to repower woefully inefficient coastal power plants.
Now California needs to stand behind the technical recommendation by moving forward on this long overdue policy.