There are four existing power plants on the Hudson River that continue to rely on 1950s era cooling technology, once-through cooling. In these antiquated cooling systems, water is drawn from the Hudson River, absorbs heat, and is then discharged back into the river at an elevated temperature. This technology requires billions of gallons of river water each day, and needlessly kills billions of fish that are impinged on the plants’ intake screens or entrained when drawn through the cooling systems.
After a decade of bureaucratic delay, Riverkeeper won the opportunity to compel four once-through cooled Hudson River power plants – Indian Point, Roseton, Bowline, and Danskammer – to modernize their antiquated intakes, which collectively withdraw one trillion gallons per year.
Our ongoing battle with these four power plants traces back to the historic Storm King Mountain controversy and the global settlement that became known as the Hudson River Settlement Agreement (HRSA). Under the 1980 Settlement, Con Ed agreed to abandon its Storm King project in exchange for the environmentalists’ agreement to not immediately force the utilities to use closed-cycle cooling which would eliminate 95% of the fish kills.
That agreement expired in 1991, allowing interested groups such as Riverkeeper to take up this important cause once more.
On December 19, 1980, the Storm King Controversy and the cooling tower issue were decided under one global settlement that became known as the “Hudson River Settlement Agreement.” Under the Settlement, Con Ed agreed to abandon its Storm King project in exchange for the environmentalists’ agreement not to force the utilities to use closed-cycle cooling. The Settlement obligated the utilities to undertake a series of operational steps to reduce fish kills, including partial outages during the key spawning months. In addition, the utilities agreed to fund and operate a striped bass hatchery, conduct biological monitoring, and set up a $12 million endowment for a new foundation for independent research on mitigating fish impacts by power plants.
The agreement became effective upon Public Service Commission approval on May 8, 1981. By its own terms, the Settlement Agreement expired 10 years from its effective date in 1991.
Power plants kill fish in staggering numbers. Every year, power plants withdraw more than 70 trillion gallons of water from U.S. oceans, rivers, lakes and reservoirs killing billions of adult and juvenile fish and shellfish, larvae, eggs and other organisms. The Hudson River alone loses more than 1.2 trillion gallons a year to power plants: That’s 5 billion gallons of biologically rich tidal River water per day during times of peak use!
Power plants kill many billions of organisms each year, including a sizable portion of the Hudson’s newly spawned fish populations, by withdrawing this massive volume of water to cool their facilities and discharging heated water back into the rivers, lakes and reservoirs. These massive water withdrawals and the resulting fish mortality have been one of the Hudson River’s most contentious and important battles for almost 30 years.
Riverkeeper and other environmental groups continue to battle the power plants as they fight against installing modern closed-cycle cooling systems that would reduce their massive impacts on Hudson River fish by 95% or more. Learn More
Like much of the county, New York is facing an energy crisis. And like much of the country, how we, as a community of New Yorkers, choose to address this energy crisis will have short- and long-term ramifications for our families and our environment. We can choose to consume energy with a surmounting, voracious appetite – increasing the number of power plants and their impacts on the Hudson River and increasing our detrimental contributions to global warming, or we can choose to use energy wisely – decreasing our reliance on dirty energy and decreasing our wasteful behaviors that directly impact the River and the environment that we will soon hand over to our children.
Energy has given us some of the most important advances in all humankind – but it’s also come at a terribly high price. If we are to continue to make improvements to the River we love and the world in which we live, Riverkeeper sees only one sustainable option available: Smart Energy production and use. We now need to strive and put all our resources into the effort to reduce the costs of energy production and energy use on our environment and on our health. That’s what Reenergizing New York is all about – using state of the art technologies to meet our energy needs and simultaneously benefiting our local communities and the environment we need to survive.
Under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), cooling water intake structures at power plants and other industrial facilities must be regulated in a manner nearly identical to pollutant discharges. Under CWA section 316(b), cooling water intakes require a National Pollutant Elimination System (NPDES) permit, and the U.S. EPA must adopt nationally uniform technology-based standards for state permit writers to include into these permits. These standards must require the best technology available (BTA) to minimize environmental impacts from cooling water intake structures.