Court says state can regulate how Plymouth nuclear plant sucks in water to stay cool
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today state environmental officials have the right to tell the owners of the Plymouth nuclear plant to take steps to protect fish and other animals from being sucked into the plant's cooling system.
State officials say they don't actually have any plans to order changes, but Entergy Nuclear Generation sued anyway, saying state law only gives the Department of Environmental Protection the right to regulate what comes out at the other end of the cooling process. A lower-court judge agreed, but the state's highest court said that was balderdash.
The justices noted state law gives state regulators oversight of "the quality and value of water resources," include marine life. If marine life is getting sucked into a cooling system and ground to bits, that falls under that provision, even if it's not the traditional sort of "pollution," environmental officials tend to worry about, the court ruled:
Entergy's primary contention is that the State Act permits the department to regulate only "water pollution" in the traditional sense, i.e., the discharge of harmful substances into a body of water.Because the intake of water at a [cooling water intake structure] is not a discharge activity, Entergy maintains that the department lacks authority to regulate CWISs. We conclude that the language of the State Act does not support, nor did the Legislature intend, such a narrow view of the department's authority.
The emphasis on traditional threats to water resources cannot be read to deprive the department of authority to address atypical or novel threats that may also harm those resources. The department's authority to create a discharge and pollution reduction program does not limit its authority to deal with water quality issues other than discharges and traditional pollution under its broad statutory powers. Restricting the department's authority to water pollution control, as Entergy suggests, would render superfluous the department's parallel duty to protect "the quality and value of water resources."
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