Environmental groups sue regulators to protect Delaware River fish from energy facilities

  • Katie Colaneri

Amy Roe, center, with the Delaware Sierra Club announces the group is suing environmental regulators in Delaware and New Jersey.

Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Amy Roe, center, with the Delaware Sierra Club announces the group is suing environmental regulators in Delaware and New Jersey.

Environmental groups claim 3 billion fish are being killed every year by two energy facilities along the Delaware River. The groups, including the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the Sierra Club, are suing state regulators in Delaware and New Jersey to enforce federal rules that would protect the fish.
The Delaware City Refinery’s cooling system sucks in millions of gallons of water a day from the Delaware River and with it, millions of fish.
Amy Roe with the Delaware Sierra Club said most of them end up dead and that’s bad for the river’s ecosystem and for anglers.
“The most popular sport fish in the region is one of the targeted fish that this refinery is killing in enormous amounts and that’s striped bass,” said Roe.
The permit for the refinery’s cooling system expired in 2002. Delaware environmental regulators still haven’t decided whether to renew it. Under the Clean Water Act, a new permit would require the refinery to put measures in place that kill fewer fish.
Environmental groups claim there are similar regulatory hang-ups at a nuclear power generating station in Salem County, South Jersey. That facility hasn’t had a new permit for its cooling water intake system since 2006.
The coalition is suing environmental regulators in Delaware and New Jersey, hoping to pressure the agencies to enforce the Clean Water Act.

“If nobody’s going to force them to do the right thing, then why should they do the right thing,” Delaware Riverkeeper Maya Van Rossum said.
But the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control said its hands are tied. Deputy Secretary David Small told StateImpact Pennsylvania in a phone interview that DNREC is counting on a long-awaited guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency on how to enforce that part of the Clean Water Act that has been held up by legal challenges.
Small said the EPA was promising to issue the guidance by the end of November, but the current government shutdown may hold things back even longer.
“Hopefully EPA can come close to or maybe still meet that deadline of early November, but who knows,” Small said. “That’s anybody’s guess at this point.”
In the lawsuit, Van Rossum said the groups will argue that the state can already start enforcing the Clean Water Act without the guidance by encouraging best available practices.
Small said the Delaware City Refinery is already taking steps to reduce its water intakes by 30 roughly percent by the end of the year, including bringing an idle cooling tower back online.

Up Next

New Corbett campaign ad touts Marcellus Shale benefits to PA and the planet