Comments on Draft BTA Policy

July 9, 2010

Christina Dowd
NYSDEC Bureau of Habitat
BTA Policy Comments
625 Broadway 5th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-4756

RE: BTA for Cooling Water Intake Structures

Dear Ms. Dowd:

The Business Council submits these comments for consideration in the Department’s efforts to finalize its policy to minimize adverse environmental impacts to fish and other aquatic organisms through BTA for cooling water intake structures. It is essential that New York’s policy consider the state’s economic and energy objectives as well as its environmental quality objectives, and avoid approaches that are unnecessarily expensive or burdensome to industry.

The Business Council is the state's largest statewide employer advocate, representing nearly 3,000 private sector employers across New York. Our membership includes more than 1,100 manufacturers, numerous electric generating facilities, and other industries, many of whose business operations are directly impacted by the state’s water permitting programs.

Specifically, we recommend that this policy be based on a facility’s actual withdrawals as opposed to its physical capacity to withdraw 20 million gallons a day. This is consistent with the criteria used in other water withdrawal programs such as the Great Lakes Basin Compact (“Compact”).

We recommend that facilities with intake structures that withdraw large amounts of water but withdraw a small amount for once through cooling purposes be exempt from this policy. Any cooling intake policy should focus on water usage specifically for cooling.

We also recommend that any new policy take into account the costs and benefits of various cooling technologies rather than requiring close-cycle cooling as the method to achieve the performance goals set out in this policy.

Finally, we recommend that the Department conduct an independent study that takes into account the time and cost constraints to construct and revise facilities to meet the policy’s performance goals.

  1. New York should adopt a cooling intake policy based on actual withdrawals.

    We are concerned that this policy goes well beyond the commitment that New York entered into through the compact to develop a program to regulate water withdrawals in the Great Lakes Basin by seeking to impose a new policy on the entire state that greatly impacts water users with “capacity” to withdraw 20 million gallons per day (gpd). Under the Compact, water users are regulated when they use more than 100,000 gpd on average over a 30-day period. We would like to see this averaging standard applied to this policy. It should be designed to minimize the adverse environmental impacts to aquatic life caused by industrial users that actually use large amounts of water and pose the greatest threat to aquatic organisms.

    A facility with the potential to withdraw 20 million gpd, but over the course of a 30-day period averages significantly less water use, should not be required to meet the same regulatory requirements as a facility that actually uses 20 million gpd or more. This is a far broader and more onerous standard than required by the compact.

    This policy could also have the unintended consequence of exempting large water users that do not meet its capacity-based threshold. Under this policy a facility that has a capacity to withdraw 15 million gpd and averages 15 million gpd would be exempt but a facility with 20 million gpd capacity and only an average use of 10 million gpd would not be.

  2. The Department should exempt facilities that use less than 15% of water for cooling.

    The draft BTA policy inadequately addresses industrial facilities that need to utilize water for other manufacturing purposes in addition to cooling water. Some facilities use the water for electricity generation. Others use water for steam generation for heating and drying and other manufacturing uses. This policy should apply only when the water use is for cooling purposes. We recommend that facilities where less than 15% of the water withdrawn is used for once through cooling be exempt from this policy.

    The policy is intended to address a concern of facilities that use large amounts of water for cooling. The draft policy already provides an exemption to existing electric generating facilities operating at less than 15% of electric generating capacity over a 5-year averaging period. We believe a similar exemption should apply to any facility that uses less than 15% of its water use for cooling.
  3. Performance goals can be met by alternative technologies

    We believe this policy should be revised to require facilities to achieve the performance goals of reducing impingement and entrainment of aquatic organisms without being required to adopt closed-cycle cooling as the method to achieve the performance goal. Consistent with the Clean Water Act’s emphasis on technology-neutral performance standards and limitations, the performance goals do not mandate the installation or use of close-cycle cooling at new or existing facilities, nor do they predetermine how such facilities will ultimately achieve the required reductions.

    Facilities may propose to achieve the policy’s performance goals through a variety of means, including alternative technologies. Even at facilities where close-cycle cooling is deemed available, site specific factors including location and cost may favor the installation and use of alternative methods.

  4. The Department needs to conduct and independent study on feasibility

    The process of constructing and revising power plants and other industrial facilities is time consuming and  expensive. Under the proposed policy a facility would most likely have to reduce the numbers of organisms lost on site by 86% to 88%. In some cases it could take several years and tens of millions of dollars to achieve the performance goals set in this policy.

    The cost of technology varies greatly with the size of a facility’s flow, physical layout and the amount and type of impact.  Cooling towers can cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Screening devices are usually $1 to $5 million. . A facility would also need to consider fine mesh screening systems at a cost of $2 to $3 million.

    In some cases, facility operators have projected  that it will cost as much as $600,000 just to do the required studies without putting in any technology to reduce entrainment and impingement. This is an excessive cost for businesses. Just installing the technology would be more cost effective in many cases.

    The plan also needs to take into account those situations where it is just not practicable to implement the performance goal. In some instances there is insufficient room to install cooling towers.

    To address these concerns, we request the Department conduct an independent study to assess the impact of the policy on system reliability, costs, jobs, consumers, and electricity prices. Any new policy should take into account the costs and benefits of various cooling technologies.

For the reasons discussed herein, we appeal to the Department to adopt a policy that is based on actual water withdrawals, exempts low water use facilities, allows for alternative technologies to reach the performance goals, and studies the feasibility of implementing this policy.

The Business Council thanks you for the opportunity to submit these comments. We encourage the Department to use the Business Council and its members as a resource for developing sound regulatory policy.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss these issues further. We look forward to working with you and your staff as the Department finalizes its BTA for cooling water intake structures rulemaking.