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Lawsuit Seeks Curb on N.Y. Power Plant's Water Intake
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On August 11, environmental group Soundkeeper Inc. sued the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and National Grid Generation LLC to compel action on a permit renewal application that would limit the utility's cooling water intake from Long Island Sound.  The petition, filed in state Supreme Court for Nassau County under the Clean Water Act and the state Environmental Conservation Law, seeks new technology to greatly reduce cooling water intake by the 48-year-old Northport Power Station, a steam-electric generating facility in Northport, N.Y., on the north shore of Long Island.


Specifically, the lawsuit seeks overdue Department of Environmental Conservation action on a five-year State Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit review that it argues would compel the utility to upgrade its cooling system to replace a current “once-through” method to a lower-impact “closed-cycle” approach, as the legally required best technology available.  According to the complaint, the Department of Environmental Conservation has found that the plant's entrainment “far exceeds that of any other industrial facility in the state,” and discharges hundreds of millions of gallons of hot water back into the Sound. 


Changing to a closed-cycle cooling system “would reduce the plant's water withdrawals, fish kills and thermal discharges by approximately 95 percent,” the group maintained. Virtually all power plants built after the 1970s use closed-cycle cooling, and many older power plants similar to Northport have undergone five-year permit reviews that led to determinations by regulators that the older systems must be replaced, it said.  Failure to act on the utility's 2010 permit review application has resulted in a “constructive renewal” of the current permit, illegally continuing its terms without having had the required “technical review or public participation in 10 years,” the lawsuit alleged.


National Grid, based in the U.K., acquired Northport and other Long Island power plants in New York through its 2007 acquisition of Keyspan Energy.  Keyspan was formed by the 1998 merger of Brooklyn Union Gas Co. and Long Island Lighting Co. (LILCO), Northport's original owner.  LILCO built the 1,522-megawatt plant in 1967, with a capacity to withdraw more than 1.6 billion gallons a day from the Sound.
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