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Settlement Will Spur Major Environmental Improvements at Brayton Point Power Plant

Release Date: 12/17/2007
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – Dec. 17, 2007) – A settlement between the U.S. EPA and the Dominion Energy Brayton Point, LLC., and endorsed by the State of Rhode Island and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, paves the way for the Somerset, Mass. power generating plant to install new “closed cycle” cooling towers that will provide significant protection to aquatic organisms in Mount Hope Bay, which flows into Narragansett Bay.

The settlement resolves a legal dispute that has been ongoing since 2003, when EPA issued a final discharge permit (called a “National Pollution Discharge Elimination System” or “NPDES” permit) for the Brayton Point Power Station requiring significant reductions in thermal discharges to, and water intake from, Mount Hope Bay.

“During this season of thanks and celebration, we are especially happy that Dominion is now committed to taking important steps to protect the environment of Mount Hope Bay,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “This agreement is a testament to the hard work and dedication of many individuals and organizations, who collectively can take much pride today for helping protect this valuable resource.”

The Brayton Point Station power plant in Somerset sits on the shores of Mount Hope Bay, and is the largest fossil-fuel burning power plant in New England. The Bay extends to both Massachusetts and Rhode Island waters, and provides important spawning, nursery and migratory habitat for many species of fish. Mount Hope Bay is a key segment of the Narragansett Bay estuary, and is a designated estuary of national significance under the federal Clean Water Act.

EPA and Dominion reached agreement to end all NPDES permit litigation and for Dominion to fully implement the heat limits and flow requirements specified in the Brayton Point Station permit. The company has agreed to retrofit the plant’s existing “open-cycle” cooling system with a “closed-cycle” cooling system to fully comply with the strict limits specified in the 2003 final NPDES permit (approximately 95 percent reductions in flow and heat from current operation). Operation of the current “once-through cooling system” damages or kills many aquatic organisms by “entrainment” and/or “impingement” in addition to elevating water temperature in the Bay.

EPA has issued an administrative order containing a schedule for meeting all NPDES permit limits within 36 months of obtaining all of the required construction and operating permits and approvals. Under this aggressive yet achievable schedule, Brayton Point Station may fully comply with its NPDES permit limits by as soon as the spring of 2012. The administrative order sets interim effluent limits and milestones that the company will be responsible for meeting until full permit compliance is achieved.

Today’s agreement is the result of substantial contributions to the permit by the MA DEP, the Mass. Attorney General’s Office, the R.I. Dept. of Environmental Management, the R.I. Attorney General's Office, Save the Bay, Conservation Law Foundation, Taunton River Watershed Alliance, Kickemuit River Council and many others. EPA’s 2003 permit involved many years of careful scientific analysis to reach the right decision for the environment and the right decision under environmental law.

“We are very pleased that the permit that the state and federal agencies worked so cooperatively and diligently to develop and defend is finally going into effect,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. “This marks a crucial step toward ensuring that this vitally important natural resource becomes healthy again.”

“This settlement is the culmination of many years of effort by all the parties committed to the protection of Mt. Hope Bay,” said Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles. “This agreement will help to protect and restore this vital marine environment.”

“We are pleased with the outcome as it appears before us. The full restoration of a historic fishery will now be possible. We thank our EPA colleagues and our State partners in reaching this outcome,” said W. Michael Sullivan, Ph.D., Director of Rhode Island Dept. of Environmental Management.

“After 14 years of hard work on this issue, this is a clear victory for everyone who cares about the Bay. Save The Bay applauds and commends EPA Region I and Dominion for achieving the terms of this agreement. We hope that it will prove a significant step in stopping thermal pollution and restoring the fish populations of Mount Hope Bay,” said John Torgan of Save The Bay.

“Conservation Law Foundation is very pleased with the resolution of this appeal,” said Christopher Kilian, CLF Clean Water Program Director. “It is far better to protect the bay and its fisheries than suffer through years’ more of litigation delays.”

“The Kickemuit River Council is deeply grateful to the EPA for developing the EPA permit, and for its hard work and dedication needed in the follow through. We appreciate their care and intelligent concern for this part of America. As it says in a poster in RI DOT, ‘A nation will thrive when there are those among it who plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.’ The EPA may never quahog, swim, fish, or crab in the Kickemuit River or Mt. Hope Bay, but we all say a prayer for their health and happiness for they have helped us and this part of the United States. God bless you and yours, EPA,” said Ann Morrill of the Kickemuit River Council.

More information: Brayton Point NPDES permit (

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