EPA Reopens Comment Period For Cooling Water Intake Structures at Phase III Facilities Proposal

EPA has reopened the comment period on proposed requirements for cooling water intake structures at Phase III facilities -- the third in a series of rules designed to reduce harm to aquatic life that is taken up with cooling water, officials announced on Nov. 25.

On Nov. 24, 2004, EPA published proposed regulations to establish requirements for cooling water intake structures at Phase III facilities under section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act (CWA). EPA proposed the following three options for defining which existing facilities would be subject to uniform national requirements, based on the facility's design intake flow threshold and source waterbody type: the facility has a total design intake flow of 50 million gallons per day (MGD) or more, and withdraws from any waterbody; the facility has a total design intake flow of 200 MGD or more, and withdraws from any waterbody; or the facility has a total design intake flow of 100 MGD or more and withdraws specifically from an ocean, estuary, tidal river, or one of the Great Lakes.

The proposed rule would also establish national section 316(b) requirements for new offshore oil and gas extraction facilities.

On Nov. 25, 2005, the agency published in the Federal Register a notice of data availability (NODA) that summarizes significant data EPA received or collected since publication of the proposed rule and discusses how EPA may use this data in revising its analyses. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration submitted new information characterizing the nature and abundance of marine life near Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas extraction facilities that might be subject to regulation under Phase III. The NODA also discusses EPA's revision of parts of the proposed Phase III rule cost estimates and presents the revised costing information, including changes to the cost development methodology and the data inputs.

Additionally, the NODA describes changes to the economic analysis of the industry sectors potentially affected by the Phase III rule. EPA revised its economic impact analysis to include a category of industries that were identified as "other" in the proposal. The revised analysis captures the food and kindred products sector, the next largest user of cooling water among the "other industries."

The agency is also examining a model that incorporates fish population dynamics not included in EPA's earlier modeling work and its potential utility for the benefits analysis.

Comments on the NODA must be received or postmarked on or before midnight Dec. 27.

For additional information, go to http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/316b/ph3-noda-fs.html.

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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