Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

U.S. EPA Study Shows Economic Benefits of Protecting Fish from Cooling Water Intakes Greatly Exceed Cost to Industry

Energy

Riverkeeper

Herring trapped at power plant intake. Photo courtesy of Riverkeeper.

Since its inception, Riverkeeper has fought to stop power plants and other industries from killing fish in cooling water intakes. Closed-cycle cooling technology has been available for decades to reduce water use and environmental impacts by upwards of 95 percent but industry has fought all the way to the Supreme Court to avoid the cost of doing the right thing.

Reacting to a 2009 Supreme Court ruling, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been slowly drafting regulations (known as the 316(b) Rule, for that section of the Clean Water Act) that would govern the use of surface waters for industrial cooling, the technology used to limit environmental impacts and is developing cost-benefit calculations to inform the technology choices.

Since proposing a weak rule in April 2011, the EPA collected more data, including a recent “stated preference survey” to gauge the value the American public places on ecosystem protection. The EPA’s survey demonstrated that the benefits of closed-cycle cooling outweigh the costs by more than three to one ($18 billion vs. $5 billion) and provide a greater net social benefit than any other options considered by the EPA.

Riverkeeper and 19 other environmental groups filed comments last week stating that in light of those new findings, and an independent expert analysis by environmental economist Frank Ackerman showing that a tough rule passes a cost-benefit test with flying colors, the EPA should require closed-cycle cooling nationwide.

As Ackerman stated, "Last year, EPA published a cost-benefit analysis of regulations–such as requirements for cooling towers–that would protect fish from cooling water intakes. That analysis contained a detailed calculation of the costs of regulation, but its estimate of the benefits of regulation contained an embarrassing number of blanks. EPA simply didn’t know, last year, how to place a monetary value on the huge reduction in fish mortality that would be achieved by building cooling towers.

This year, EPA released a nearly-complete study of the amounts that households would be willing to pay for saving huge numbers of fish. Drop these numbers into the blanks in last year’s cost-benefit analysis, and the answer is clear: public willingness to pay to protect fish is much greater than the cost of building cooling towers everywhere. This is true even under EPA’s unduly narrow use of the numbers, and even more so under a more natural interpretation of the new study."

In addition Reed Super, the lead attorney representing Riverkeeper and the 19 other environmental groups, said, "Until now, EPA has been comparing reasonably complete cost estimates against wildly incomplete estimates of benefits—often zeroing out or ignoring as much as 98 percent of the ecological benefits, which are harder to put a price tag on. For the first time, EPA is completing a sophisticated economic study that monetizes most of the benefits and, while it still undervalues aquatic resources in certain respects, EPA's analysis demonstrates that the benefits of protecting the biological integrity of our nation's waters from industrial cooling water withdrawals vastly outweigh the costs."

 Visit EcoWatch’s CLEAN WATER ACT page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Lit candles, flowers and signs are seen in front of the U.S. embassy in Warsaw, Poland on May 31, 2020. Aleksander Kalka / NurPhoto / Getty Images

As protests are taking place across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, we want to acknowledge the importance of this protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, we've aimed to be sensitive and prioritize stories that highlight the intersection between racial and environmental injustice. From our years of covering the environment, we know that too often marginalized communities around the world are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.

Read More Show Less
Sockeye salmon are seen swimming at a fish farm. Natalie Fobes / Getty Images

By Peter Beech

Using waste food to farm insects as fish food and high-tech real-time water quality monitoring: innovations that could help change global aquaculture, were showcased at the World Economic Forum's Virtual Ocean Dialogues 2020.

Read More Show Less
Shanika Reaux walks through the devastated Lower Ninth Ward on May 10, 2006 in New Orleans, Louisiana, after her home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Mario Tama / Getty Images

The big three broadcast channels failed to cover the disproportionate impacts of extreme weather on low-income communities or communities of color during their primetime coverage of seven hurricanes and one tropical storm over three years, a Media Matters for America analysis revealed.

Read More Show Less
Several drugmakers and research institutions are working on vaccines, antivirals and other treatments to help people infected with COVID-19. krisanapong detraphiphat / Moment / Getty Images

Researchers at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced yesterday that it will start a trial on a new drug designed specifically for COVID-19, a milestone in the race to stop the infectious disease, according to STAT News.

Read More Show Less
The Sumatran rhino is one of 515 endangered species of land animals on the brink of extinction. Mark Carwardine / Photolibrary / Getty Images

The sixth mass extinction is here, and it's speeding up.

Read More Show Less
People are having a hard time trying to understand what information is reliable and what information they can trust. Aekkarak Thongjiew / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Cathy Cassata

With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.

They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Workers clean up a crude oil leak from a pipeline in Minnesota in 2002. JOEY MCLEISTER / Star Tribune via Getty Images

The Trump administration has finalized a rule making it harder for states and tribal communities to block pipelines and other infrastructure projects that threaten waterways.

Read More Show Less