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Thursday, October 13, 2011

PSNH: EPA is rushing change in water-usage rules for power plant

PSNH has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow more time for comments on a proposed tightening of water-usage rules at the company’s Merrimack Station power plant in Bow.

The move is the latest step in what is likely to be a long fight over the proposed changes, which by the EPA’s estimate could require building a $110 million “cooling tower” to reduce the temperature of as much as 287 million gallons of water taken from and returned to the river each day to cool the boilers.

On Sept. 29, the EPA issued a draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

PSNH said the draft came more than 14 years after PSNH filed for a renewal of its existing permit and that the EPA draft permit includes more than 500 pages of material.

“In light of EPA’s lengthy delay and the voluminous material released with the draft permit, providing a reasonable comment period by allowing an additional 90 days cannot be viewed as creating any significant harm,” said Bill Smagula, PSNH Director of Generation. “The extension should be granted out of fairness, to allow PSNH and the public the opportunity to appropriately respond.”

The extension request was supplemented by similar requests by environmental consulting firms ENERCON and Normandeau Associates, who both indicated that the initial 60-day comment period does not allow adequate time for a full and proper review of the draft permit.

NERA Economic Consulting also requested an extension, noting that the draft permit raises many complicated issues that will require considerable time to evaluate.

The proposal, part of an update of the plant’s permit to use Merrimack River water, is available for review through Nov. 30.

The EPA will hold a public hearing Nov. 3 at New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services headquarters auditorium in Concord, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-5831 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com.