Sunday, April 5, 2009

Supreme Court Ruling on Fish and Power Plants

Posted by Kirk
The supreme court ruled in favor of power utilities this week. The decision essentially means power companies can keep doing business as usual and do nothave to put into place systems that would reduce the number of fish killed from being sucked into the cooling systems of the plants. The EPA estimates (probably conservatively) that power plants kill 3.4 billion fish and shellfish each year in their cooling systems.

This all reminds me of a school field-trip we took to the Northern States Power High Bridge coal fired power plant in St. Paul. I don;t remember exactly how old I was. Maybe 6th or 7th grade. I do remember in 6th grade that the energy curriculum we studied was provided by the coal industry. Nice.

On the field trip we saw the boilers, the coal field, etc. and I clearly remember our female tour guide telling us that the plant was cooled with water from the Mississippi River. She proudly told us that all the water taken from the river was put back and that they monitored the temperature of the water going back in because if it was too warm when it went back in it would be bad for the fish. She neglected to mention the thousands of fish that got sucked into the system in the first place.

As a little kid I thought about it for a second and then asked what I thought was a logical question given that she had just told us they constantly monitored the water temp. I asked, "What do you do if the water temperature is too high? Do you shut down the plant to prevent hurting the fish?"

The woman stared at me, paused, then said, "let's continue the tour." I realized right then and there that you can never expect to get a straight answer from power companies.

I was satisfied this past year when the high bridge coal plant was taken out of service. I would have liked to have been there when they knocked down the smoke stack.