Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions



For immediate release:
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
For more information contact:
Adrienne Esposito, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, 631-384-1378
Kyle Rabin, Network for New Energy Choices, 212-991-1067
Reed Super, Attorney, 212-791-1881, ext 222
Regina Weiss, Communications Director, 917-288-5251


DEC decision adds fairness to fight over fish

As 2009 drew to a close, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) quietly issued a decision that will dramatically decrease the destruction of fish off Long Island’s South Shore, including millions of winter flounder, a species whose numbers are today at a fraction of their historic levels. On December 23, DEC issued a draft permit requiring National Grid to outfit its E.F. Barrett Power Plant with equipment to reduce its destruction of marine life by 95 percent. The plant sits in Island Park, in the Town of Hempstead, and withdraws water from the Western Bays, a sub-region of the South Shore Estuary.

Of the one billion fish, fish eggs and larvae killed each year by the five-decades-old plant, more than 30 million are winter flounder, whose stocks are so decimated that last May the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission required New York and other Mid- Atlantic states to impose drastic reductions to their commercial and recreational harvest. In November, DEC reduced its recreational “daily possession limit” for winter flounder to 2 per day, from 10, and slashed commercial daily catches for the fish to 50 pounds.

Meanwhile, the owners of antiquated power plants have been allowed to freely destroy aquatic life, contributing to the need for a highly-regulated commercial and recreational fishing industry, and wasting the money of taxpayers who have invested millions of dollars in the restoration of the South Shore Estuary. Adding to the sense of unfairness, last spring the National Marine Fisheries Service shut down fishing of winter flounder in federal waters from south of Long Island to the tip of Cape Cod.

The Barrett station alone accounts for 40 percent of the winter flounder destroyed by New York’s power plants. Biological studies conducted from February 2003 to February 2004 counted 26,800,000 winter flounder eggs and larvae drawn into the plant’s obsolete cooling system, and 5,300 adult winter flounder trapped on intake screens. In total, the same studies counted 1.2 billion fish eggs and larvae, representing dozens of species, sucked in by the plant, and 178,000 adult fish of various types ensnared on its screens.

Power plants often use large quantities of water to cool their turbines, which is why they are typically built on the shores of oceans, lakes and rivers. Long Island’s five thermoelectric plants, all owned by National Grid, together can destroy 10.6 billion marine organisms every year, or more than one million every hour, including fish eggs, larvae and plankton, all of which are essential to the aquatic food chain, the ecological integrity of the estuary and to the local economy. These organisms are vacuumed into intake pipes, exposed to extremely hot water and toxic chemicals, and battered about by mechanical equipment. Few, if any, survive. Larger fish caught in the powerful currents rushing into the plants’ intake structures become trapped on screens where they are injured or killed.

“The solution is replacing destructive, antiquated cooling systems that withdraw and then discharge water – called once-through cooling – with closed-cycle cooling systems that draw in water once and re-circulate it, much like a car radiator” said Kyle Rabin, executive director of Network for New Energy Choices. “The result is a stunning 95 percent drop in the amount of water that the plants use, and a 95 percent drop in the amount of aquatic life harmed and killed by the plant. In fact, if any of the Long Island power plants were built today, they would be required to use this technology” Rabin added.

“The environmental carnage has been allowed to continue for decades, due to a lack of federal leadership. According to the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should have created regulations requiring all existing power plants to use the best technology available – closed cycle cooling – to minimize the destruction of aquatic life,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “However, weak draft regulations and a series of lawsuits have left the EPA still trying to piece together a new set of rules to compel power plants to end their environmental destruction” she added.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Network for New Energy Choices are not waiting for EPA to act. They are spearheading a campaign to stop the destruction of Long Island’s marine life by all five of the region’s power plants. Using New York’s five-year permit renewal review of the plants as an opportunity to demand change, the advocates have called on the DEC to require National Grid to replace its plants’ antiquated oncethrough cooling systems with closed-cycle cooling.

“Clearly DEC is listening. With its year-end decision to require closed cycle cooling at Hempstead’s Barrett plant, the state may save over a billion Long Island fish every year. But this is just the second time DEC has issued a permit requiring closed cycle cooling. Now they need to do the same at Long Island’s other four plants, and statewide” said Reed Super, an attorney representing the groups in their call to phase out destructive once-through cooling and thereby protect fisheries.

“While most fish eggs and larvae do not survive to adulthood, they are a critical source of food for birds, mammals and other fish. Eggs that hatch as young fish serve as prey for other wildlife and become important predators themselves. The billions lost to power plants hugely undermine efforts to rebuild the world’s fish stocks to sustainable levels and impede efforts to improve the health of our estuaries,” concluded Rabin.


Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) empowers communities and advocates solutions for our shared environment and public health and is supported by over 80,000 members throughout New York State and Connecticut. www.citizenscampaign.org

updated by dcoppola  1/13/10