Clean Water Act Law and Pilgrim

Entergy’s use of Cape Cod Bay as a dumping ground and water source is regulated by state and federal Clean Water Act laws. These laws have been on the books since the 1940s, but state and federal enforcement is lacking. Under the Clean Water Act, Entergy (Pilgrim’s owner) was issued a “NPDES” permit. This NPDES permit regulates Entergy’s discharge of pollutants to Cape Cod Bay and its water intake. Entergy’s NPDES permit is based on outdated information and has been expired since 1996!

Pilgrim has been operating under an expired Clean Water Act NPDES permit since 1996, and will continue to do so until it shuts down in 2019!

Entergy is also required to demonstrate to permitting authorities that Pilgrim’s discharge would not harm the indigenous aquatic community. To demonstrate this, Entergy only considered Pilgrim’s impact on 13 representative species. Entergy’s report also states that there are no rare or endangered species in the vicinity of Pilgrim – which is false. Much of the information that Pilgrim’s expired permit is based on today is outdated – from the 1970s and 1980s.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) are responsible for ensuring Entergy’s NPDES permit is up-to-date and the company is in compliance.

After years of pressure, EPA and MassDEP agreed to update Entergy’s NPDES permit in 2013. They missed this deadline. In a January 2014 letter, we asked EPA to immediately terminate Pilgrim’s NPDES permit due to the unacceptable delay in renewing the long-expired permit. The process finally started in July 2014 when EPA sent a consultation letter to the NRC. Around the same time, EPA requested information from Entergy in order to create new informed guidelines for the new permit. The agencies promised to have the new draft permit done, this time by fall 2014. Again, it never happened.

Now that Entergy announced that Pilgrim will be closing no later than June 2019, it seems that agency efforts to renew Pilgrim’s expired NPDES permit have stalled since the final permit likely wouldn’t be issued until after closure. However, this means that Pilgrim could remain fully operational until 2019 under an expired permit, and water intake and discharge will continue even after closure. Water use will be drastically reduced (from 500+ million gallons daily to up to 3 million gallons daily), but will not fully cease until Pilgrim’s spent fuel pool is no longer operational (likely 5-10 years after closure). Learn more about Pilgrim’s decommissioning →

UPDATE May 18, 2016: Pilgrim’s New Draft Permit Has Finally Arrived. Learn more →

Past Legal Challenges:

Entergy’s Clean Water Act Violations: In October 2012, local residents began to take steps to hold Entergy accountable for Clean Water Act violations. Under the Clean Water Act, they sent a notice of intent to sue letter to Entergy and state and federal regulators. The letter outlined Pilgrim’s 33,000+ violations of the federal Clean Water Act, and claims that Entergy could be liable for $831,325,000.00 in civil penalties for polluting Cape Cod Bay. The letter was based on Entergy’s own reporting of the violations.

Damage to the Environment Legal Challenge: In October 2012, 17 residents notified Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) of their intent to sue if the agency failed to stop Pilgrim’s water pollution.

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