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March 29, 2011

Contact: Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club, 512.477.2152

Dirty Coal Industry Influence is Clear as Weak Proposed Rule Would Do Nothing to Protect Waterways

New "fish shredding" guidance lets outdated, dirty industry continue wasting water and killing wildlife

(Washington, DC) – Late Monday Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson proposed a weak new rule that will do almost nothing to conserve the billions of gallons of water wasted or protect the billions of fish shredded by power plant cooling systems nationwide. The new proposed guidelines, which would apply to dirty energy facilities like coal and nuclear power plants that use large amounts of water for cooling, would give industry just what they asked for – weak standards to follow and a free pass to avoid the adoption of the latest water-saving and wildlife-protecting technologies.

"Every year coal-fired power plants pulverize billions of fish and devastate the health of America's waterways, and unfortunately the weak standards proposed by EPA will do little to fix those problems," said Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "We look to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to improve this proposed standard in the coming months to protect Americans and the streams, rivers, and lakes we treasure – not the bottom lines of coal industry executives."

Old and outdated power plants are among the largest water users in the United States, some using billions of gallons of water per day by sucking in water and wildlife from rivers and then releasing the dangerously hot water back into waterways. This outdated system wastes water, harms wildlife and threatens a way of life for local fishermen.

Specifically, the new proposed rule needs improvement because:

  • It fails to require enough power plants to use the best technology available, which is already being used by most newer plants. A stronger standard is economically feasible and would move the nation toward a cleaner energy future with more efficient energy production and better protections for aquatic life.
  • It fails to protect the fisheries in the Great Lakes and other highly-valued, beloved waterways. In the Great Lakes region alone, the sport and commercial fishery is worth over $7 billion annually.
  • It fails to reduce the percentage of fish being shredded by getting sucked into power plant cooling systems. The proposed rule sets weak standards and gives outdated industries a free pass to delay modernizing their plants. As dirty power plants suck in massive amounts of water for cooling, they also suck in billions of fish, shredding them and disrupting entire waterways and communities. But newer technologies exist, and a stronger rule could have phased in water recycling systems that use 95% less water for cooling.

"The Sierra Club will hold the coal industry and the Obama Administration accountable to Americans who are concerned about their water and wildlife," said Hitt. "Our waterways are our nation’s lifelines and we must protect them by improving this proposed rule in common sense ways."


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