Cooling Off

The State Water Board rebuffed DWP's effort to water down new cooling policies at plants like its Scattergood facility.

In a nail biter, the State Water Resources Control Board got the three votes it needed Tuesday to turn down a broad amendment that would have gutted California’s new Once-Through Cooling policy for power plants. Board members Tam Doduc, Fran Spivy-Weber and Art Bagget supported the motion to uphold the policy and oppose the amendment.

The board also agreed to expedite analysis of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s implementation plan next summer. Over the past year, the DWP has argued numerous times that it can’t meet the OTC policy compliance deadlines for re-powering three of its power plants by the end of 2021.

Earlier, the DWP promised to phase out all OTC, but it wanted until 2031 for Scattergood and up to 2040 for co-generation power plants.  But, then DWP lobbied the State Water Board for a policy amendment to extend the compliance timeframe in exchange to phasing out OTC at all three power plants.  Instead of introducing a narrow amendment for DWP, the State Board proposed an expanded amendment, opening up a Pandora’s box in the OTC policy for co-generation and fossil fuel plants up and down the entire state coastline.

As a result, a number of enviro and fishing communities joined to oppose the expanded amendment for gutting the policy. Linda Sheehan, the executive director of California Coastkeeper Alliance, took lead in the comment-writing and organization effort. Santa Monica Baykeeper, NRDC, Sierra Club and Surfrider also strongly opposed the amendment at the hearing.

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The Fish Won!

The State Water Board voted to curtail once through cooling.

Going into Tuesday’s State Water Board hearing on California’s once-through-cooling policy for power plants, you couldn’t blame me for my usual cynicism about our ability to care for the environment.

 After all, the ongoing Gulf spill is causing catastrophic damage to one of America’s most critical estuaries and fisheries. And Gov. Schwarzenegger decided this week that his personal right to light up a stogie in a state park or beach is more critical than stopping marine debris. (Remember – only you can prevent forest fires!)

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Steamed With the L.A. Times

The Times ignores that the Scattergood power plant in El Segundo is in violation of the Clean Water Act.

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.

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Fight the Power

Once Through Cooling plants suck the life out of the ocean

Once Through Cooling plants suck the life out of the ocean

I just sat through a seven-hour workshop on the State Water Board’s long-awaited Once Through Cooling power plant policy for California. Arguably, this may be the most important coastal resource protection action in California this year. State Water Board staff put together a draft policy that could finally hold the power industry accountable for decades of non-compliance with the Clean Water Act. In essence, the policy requires OTC plants to comply with Section 316b of the Act and greatly reduce their impacts on fisheries and marine life. These plants use ancient steam generation technologies that literally suck the life out of the ocean. Fish are caught on screens and larvae and eggs get cooked in the plant.

The many speakers who showed up largely stuck to their scripts. The enviro community came out en masse (Keepers, NRDC, Surfrider, Sierra Club, and Heal the Bay) and largely supported most of the draft policy with a strong call for policy simplification and the elimination of giant compliance loopholes. The strength behind the enviro position came from the Second Circuit Federal Court of Appeals on the Riverkeeper I and II cases. Our positions are also supported by the Supreme Court. Continue reading

The Poseidon Misadventure

Heading for a fall...

Desal: heading for a fall...

Remember Shelly Winters swimming through the tunnel of wreckage on the tsunami-flipped ocean liner in the ‘70s cult classic “The Poseidon Adventure”?  Although she tried valiantly to swim through the tunnel of water, she didn’t make it through alive. The proposed Poseidon Resources desalination project in Carlsbad is very similar to the doomed ship.  Instead of Shelly Winters’ character, it is the fish and marine larvae that just can’t make it through the seawater intake without dying.

If the Coastal Commission approves the revised findings for the project on Wednesday, the giant desalination project will suck the life out of 300 million gallons per day (MGD) of seawater from the Agua Hedionda Lagoon, one of the few remaining coastal estuaries left in Southern California. That’s 300 million gallons a day of estuarine water to provide only 50 MGD of potable water!!

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