Federal Water Tap, April 25: Pipelines and Power Plants

The Tar Sands Might Be Moving to Texas
The U.S. Department of State released a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada’s tar sands to refineries in Texas. An EIS for the 1,710 mile, 36-inch-diameter pipeline was completed last year. The supplement addresses public concerns, including potential effects to major aquifers, that were insufficiently analyzed in the original. The public comment period ends June 6. Comments may be submitted to keystonexl@cardno.com.

Cover Your Pipes
The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new rules to govern cooling-water intakes for users withdrawing large volumes of water. EPA already requires new facilities to install closed-cycle cooling to reduce the amount of water taken out of rivers, lakes and oceans. This is done to cut down on aquatic organisms sucked into the intakes (known in the jargon as entrainment) and trapped against mesh screens (impingement). The proposed rule will require existing facilities to retrofit their intakes with technology to reduce impingement. The EPA stopped short of requiring existing facilities to install closed-cycle cooling, a decision lamented by environmental groups. Instead, entrainment controls will be decided on a site-by-site basis during the pollution discharge permitting process, which, in most cases, is run by the states.

Existing facilities with a designed intake flow of more than two million gallons per day and using more than 25 % of withdrawals for cooling are subject to the rule. Some 559 electric generators (45 percent of the nation’s electric power capacity) and 592 manufacturing facilities will be affected.

Comments on the rule are being accepted until July 19. They can be submitted by email to OW-Docket@epa.gov with docket identification number “EPA–HQ–OW–2008–0667” in the subject line. Comments submitted by email are part of the public domain. Anonymous comments are accepted at http://www.regulations.gov.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. aid agency created by Congress in 2004, has entered into a $350-million compact with the southern African country of Malawi. The money will be used to repair the country’s oldest hydropower facility, improve the electrical transmission system, and remove invasive plants in the river feeding the hydropower facility. This comes a few months after the MCC signed $275-million compact with Jordan for water supply and wastewater treatment projects.

House Member Orders Water-Energy Research
The Government Accountability Office, a Congressional research agency, has released a report on energy use in the urban water sector. Not prone to idle talk, the GAO strikes at the heart of the matter in the report’s sub-title: the “Amount of Energy Needed to Supply, Use, and Treat Water Is Location-Specific and Can Be Reduced by Certain Technologies and Approaches.” Prepared at the request of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), who is the ranking member on the Science, Space and Technology committee, the report acknowledges that comprehensive data on energy use in the urban water sector is limited. The authors use Memphis, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. as comparative cases throughout the report.

Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

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