Criteria and Standards for Cooling Water Intake Structures

Criteria and Standards for Cooling Water Intake Structures

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Enviromental Protection Agency
RIN Number:
Release Date:
April 20, 2011
Closing Date:
July 19, 2011
Environmental Protection Agency


This proposed rule would establish requirements under section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for all existing power generating facilities and existing manufacturing and industrial facilities that withdraw more than 2 million gallons per day (MGD) of water from waters of the U.S. and use at least twenty-five (25) percent of the water they withdraw exclusively for cooling purposes. The proposed national requirements, which would be implemented through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, would establish national requirements applicable to the location, design, construction, and capacity of cooling water intake structures at these facilities by setting requirements that reflect the best technology available (BTA) for minimizing adverse environmental impact. The proposed rule constitutes EPA's response to the remand of the Phase II existing facility rule and the remand of the existing facilities portion of the Phase III rule. In addition, EPA is also responding to the decision in Riverkeeper I and proposing to remove from the Phase I new facility rule the restoration-based compliance alternative and the associated monitoring and demonstration requirements. EPA expects this proposed regulation would minimize adverse environmental impacts, including substantially reducing the harmful effects of impingement and entrainment. As a result, the Agency anticipates this proposed rule would help protect ecosystems affected by cooling water intake structures and preserve aquatic organisms and the ecosystems they inhabit in waters used by cooling water intake structures at existing facilities.


Although there may be a market failure, all options presented in the proposed rule result in a net cost to society. Although the EPA only includes a partial measure of nonuse benefits for the northeast and middle Atlantic states, if one compares the option with the lowest cost (option 4) with the option (option 3) returning the greatest benefit, the cost on society ($326.55 million [$2009]) is still more than double the benefit ($125.65 million [$2009]). This is still true even if nonuse value for Option 3 is tripled from $75.48 million ($2009) (as reported on page 22247) to 226.44 million ($2009) so that the gross benefit to society would be $276.62 million ($2009).


Dollar Year
Time Horizon (Years)
50 Years
Discount Rates
Expected Costs (Annualized)
$383.80 (millions)
$458.81 (millions)
Expected Benefits (Annualized)
$17.63 (millions)
$16.04 (millions)
Expected Costs (Total)
$9,874.98 (millions)
$6,331.93 (millions)
Expected Benefits (Total)
$453.68 (millions)
$221.34 (millions)
Net Benefits (Annualized)
-$366.17 (millions)
-$442.77 (millions)
Net Benefits (Total)
-$9,421.30 (millions)
-$6,110.59 (millions)


There are twelve criteria within our evaluation within three broad categories: Openness, Analysis and Use. For each criterion, the evaluators assign a score ranging from 0 (no useful content) to 5 (comprehensive analysis with potential best practices). Thus, each analysis has the opportunity to earn between 0 and 60 points.

Criterion Score


1. How easily were the RIA , the proposed rule, and any supplementary materials found online?
Proposed rule and supporting documents easy to find using a RIN search using as well as traditional search engines.
2. How verifiable are the data used in the analysis?
Much of the data come from EPA surveys of facilities as well as published research. Data sources are clearly presented, but few contain links. There is little data presented on the benefits or the effectiveness of methods proposed.
3. How verifiable are the models and assumptions used in the analysis?
Some easily, such as elasticity of demand by commercial and industrial sectors (10–11), which cite published articles. Others assumptions, such as the average supply elasticity and the input-output model are less easily verified. For instance, the supply elasticity for a number of commercial and industrial sectors is the “default supply elasticity value calculated as average of elasticity values developed from EPA Elasticity Databank.”
4. Was the analysis comprehensible to an informed layperson?
If chapter 13 is excluded from the analysis, one is led to think that the agency chose the least costly alternative. Given probability modeling and economic impact estimations and such, the document is not very layperson friendly.


5. How well does the analysis identify the desired outcomes and demonstrate that the regulation will achieve them?
Does the analysis clearly identify ultimate outcomes that affect citizens’ quality of life?
The purpose of the regulation is to reduce the impact of cooling intake structures on aquatic life. The analysis does not directly mention how this will affect the average citizen's quality of life; it does look at recreational fishing, commercial fishing, nonuse benefits, and benefits to threatened and endangered species.
Does the analysis identify how these outcomes are to be measured?
The proposed rule does look that the effect on commercial and sport fisherman, as well as the nonuse value following Johnston et al. (2009) for certain regions.
Does the analysis provide a coherent and testable theory showing how the regulation will produce the desired outcomes?
Yes, the rule proposed various water removal methods that will result in less impingement and entrainment mortality so that a larger amount of biomass will survive.
Does the analysis present credible empirical support for the theory?
The rule proposal in the federal registry gives percentages of how much mortality of aquatic life may be reduced, but it only references a previous EPA study.
Does the analysis adequately assess uncertainty about the outcomes?
The proposed rule does, to a small degree, address the uncertainty of the mortality rates associated with impingement and entrainment instead of simply assuming 100 percent mortality for entrainment and 0 percent mortality for impingement. The rule does not assess the uncertainty surrounding how each method of water removal might change the stock of aquatic life.
6. How well does the analysis identify and demonstrate the existence of a market failure or other systemic problem the regulation is supposed to solve?
Does the analysis identify a market failure or other systemic problem?
The proposed rule simply assumes a systemic problem. Given the open access nature of water removal, aquatic life may be negatively affected. However, many current facilities removing water have methods to reduce impingement and entrainment of organisms. A minority already meets the requirement set forth in the proposed rule.
Does the analysis outline a coherent and testable theory that explains why the problem (associated with the outcome above) is systemic rather than anecdotal?
Actually, the analysis presents sound reasons as to why this is not a systemic problem. A number of facilities already meet the requirement. In addition, there are a small number of facilities overall, and the lost realized, in both use value and nonuse value terms, is small compared to the costs of installing impingement and entrainment reducing equipment.
Does the analysis present credible empirical support for the theory?
For the theory that impingement and entrainment take place, yes. That it is a systemic problem, not exactly. The empirical analysis proves that aquatic life is lost due to the water removal method, however, it does not determine whether this results in an overall reduction in the stock of biomass.
Does the analysis adequately assess uncertainty about the existence or size of the problem?
The agency does address the uncertainty over mortality associated with impingement and entrainment of organisms. It also recognizes the variability associated with water removal based on flow rates, season, location, method of organism removal.
7. How well does the analysis assess the effectiveness of alternative approaches?
Does the analysis enumerate other alternatives to address the problem?
"The analysis lists four options: Option 1: Impingement Mortality at All Existing Facilities and Entrainment Mortality Controls for All New Units at Existing Facilities; Determined Entrainment Controls for Facilities Greater Than 2 MGD DIF on a Site-Specific Basis (IM Everywhere). Option 2: Impingement Mortality Everywhere and Entrainment Mortality for Existing Facilities with DIF>125 MGD and All New Units at Existing Facilities (IM Everywhere, EM for Facilities with DIF>125 MGD). Option 3: Impingement and Entrainment Mortality Everywhere (I&E Mortality Everywhere). Option 4: Uniform Impingement Mortality Controls at Existing Facilities with DIF of 50 MGD or More; Best Professional Judgment-based Permits for Existing Facilities with DIF Less Than 50 MGD but More Than 2 MGD DIF; Uniform Entrainment Controls for All New Units at Existing Facilities (IM for Facilities with DIF>50 MGD). "
Is the range of alternatives considered narrow (e.g., some exemptions to a regulation) or broad (e.g., performance-based regulation vs. command and control, market mechanisms, nonbinding guidance, information disclosure, addressing any government failures that caused the original problem)?
The proposed rule only focuses on various technology standards. The rule does look at various types of technological methods that can be used to reduce impingement and entrainment of organisms. This includes various types of flow rates and season flow reductions, water reuse, closed-cycle cooling, various types and sizes of screens, mesh, nets, aquatic barriers, and intake locations. The EPA identifies three best performing technologies: modified travel screens with fish returns, barrier nets, and mechanical draft wet cooling towers.
Does the analysis evaluate how alternative approaches would affect the amount of the outcome achieved?
Yes, the proposed rule does a sound job in determining the outcomes associated with each of the four options.
Does the analysis adequately address the baseline? That is, what the state of the world is likely to be in the absence of federal intervention not just now but in the future?
The rule does not use current practice as the baseline. The agency uses the baseline of no impingement or entrainment of organisms. Appears to assume EPA has the authority (and ability) to eliminate all impingement and entrainment of organisms.
8. How well does the analysis assess costs and benefits?
Does the analysis identify and quantify incremental costs of all alternatives considered?
The analysis identifies the various costs (such as capital cost, lost revenue from downtime, compliance costs, administrative costs, and potential closures, etc.) likely to arise for manufacturers and electricity producers, as well as administrative costs to governments for each option.
Does the analysis identify all expenditures likely to arise as a result of the regulation?
The proposed rule does report the higher electricity prices and higher manufacturing costs by industry. It also reports higher electricity prices for households by region. For example, see section 3.1.2.
Does the analysis identify how the regulation would likely affect the prices of goods and services?
Section 5.4 analyzes the impact on households in each NERC region for the first three options assuming 100 percent pass-through. Section 5.5 analyzes the impact of the regulation on prices in each NERC region for the first three options. The “market-model” in the appendix to chapter 6 provides an analysis of how prices may adjust while accounting for potential downtime in each NERC region.
Does the analysis examine costs that stem from changes in human behavior as consumers and producers respond to the regulation?
In some modeling, the EPA does account for the elasticity of demand and supply when determining how consumers and producers might respond to the increases in prices associated with producing and consuming goods and services that will now include the higher cost of withdrawing cooling water. However, in other sections, the EPA recognizes that it does not take into account dynamic responses by producers and consumers of electricity. The analysis does not consider the costs of potential lobbying by the affected industries.
If costs are uncertain, does the analysis present a range of estimates and/or perform a sensitivity analysis?
The analysis does recognize a wide variety of uncertainties in the agency's cost estimates, however, the proposed rule does not present a range or perform a sensitivity analysis for each regulatory option presented.
Does the analysis identify the alternative that maximizes net benefits?
The EPA does not choose the option that maximizes net benefits. Option 4 seems to have the greatest net benefits, but option 1 is the favored option.
Does the analysis identify the cost-effectiveness of each alternative considered?
The proposed rule does report the effectiveness of each of the four proposed options. However, it does not directly address the ratio of cost to outcomes (benefits).
Does the analysis identify all parties who would bear costs and assess the incidence of costs?
The rule reports the incidence of costs by industry, by size of firms within industries, by income levels, by regions. The agency excluded 72 manufacturers that the EPA determined would be closed due to financial distress regardless of the implementation of 316 (b). Listed compliance costs by type for each of the six industries for manufacturers and by region for electric generators (see section 3.1.7). These cost are presented for the first three options. The data for facility finances were obtained from surveys from the late 1990s. The analysis develops less detailed cost estimates for state and federal governments. Estimates cost for new generating units but does not break down these cost for each option. Impact on manufacturers relative to their financial positions is presented in chapter 4, and the impact on electric generators is presented in chapter 5. These chapters include impacts for each of the first three options (perhaps impact on profit margin should have been included).
Does the analysis identify all parties who would receive benefits and assess the incidence of benefits?
“Recreational fishing, commercial fishing, nonuse benefits, and benefits to threatened and endangered species (see Exhibit VIII–10). EPA believes that the benefits estimated for the first two categories are fairly complete, while the benefits estimated for the latter two categories are incomplete for a number of reasons. For example, the non-use [sic] benefits consider only the northeast and middle Atlantic states.” Uses Johnston et al. (2009) model to determine nonuse value willingness to pay. Looks at various species from loggerhead turtles to sea smelt.


9. Does the proposed rule or the RIA present evidence that the agency used the analysis?
There are a few reasons (p. 22208) given in the proposed rule for why the agency chose a particular option, but the economic analysis is not mention in this section. Economic feasibility is mentioned for why option 1 is chosen over option 4, but from the analysis, it seems option 4 (if anything) is more economically feasible than option 1.
10. Did the agency maximize net benefits or explain why it chose another alternative?
Based on the information in the RIA, option 4 appears to have the greatest net benefits, but option 1 is preferred to option 4. On page 22208 of the proposed rule, the agency explains why it prefers option 4, but the explanation is rather incoherent.
11. Does the proposed rule establish measures and goals that can be used to track the regulation's results in the future?
The proposed rule calls for each facility to generate a baseline measure of the level of impingement and entrainment by types of organisms in order to determine the technology methods that will most effectively reduce the rates of impingement and entrainment. This gives the EPA a baseline upon which to measure future performance.
12. Did the agency indicate what data it will use to assess the regulation's performance in the future and establish provisions for doing so?
The proposed rule calls requires facilities to “monitor no less than once per week during primary periods of impingement as determined by the Director, and no less than biweekly during all other times. For each monitoring event, the facility would determine the number of organisms that are collected or retained on a 3⁄8 inch sieve (i.e., that are impinged [I]), and the number that die within 24–48 hours of impingement (i.e., impingement mortality [IM]).” Future permit applications would require these studies for permit renewal.
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