EPA Backtracks on Merrimack Station Water Permit

New permit fails to fix problem EPA itself identified

Merrimack Station in Bow, New Hampshire

Merrimack Station in Bow, New Hampshire. Photo via Flikr

May 26, 2020 (CONCORD, NH) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the water pollution permit for the Merrimack Station coal-fired power plant today but failed to include critical water pollution protections that the agency had previously proposed. Unlike EPA’s prior proposal, the updated permit does not require the plant to install modern cooling-water upgrades.

Advocates–as well as EPA itself in the draft version of the permit–contend that installing cooling towers would’ve prevented the plant from withdrawing millions of gallons of water a day from the Merrimack River and killing untold numbers of fish in the process, and would’ve eliminated vast amounts of thermal pollution from heated wastewater discharged back into the river.

The finalized permit comes three years after Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the EPA arguing that the agency has unreasonably delayed updating the permit, in which the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order directing EPA to “work diligently” to resolve its permitting delay.

In response, New Hampshire’s Sierra Club Chapter and Conservation Law Foundation issued the following statements:

“The Trump Administration has failed New Hampshire. This new permit is woefully inadequate and retreats from the recommendations responsible officials at the EPA previously made,” Catherine Corkery, New Hampshire Chapter Director and Senior Organizing Representative for the Sierra Club said. “Under the Trump administration, the EPA has come to prioritize the bottom line of polluters at the expense of our communities’ waterways and the environment. Our state deserves better.”

“In addition to being a major source of air pollution, the Merrimack Station coal-fired power plant has been destroying the health of the Merrimack River,” Tom Irwin, Director of Conservation Law Foundation New Hampshire said. “It’s inexcusable that EPA, after determining this outdated facility would require modern cooling towers, would reverse course and put the interests of Big Coal over the health of such an iconic water body.”