Supreme Court Sides With Power Plants Over Fish

April 1, 2009 - 10:59 AM
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Washington (AP) - The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the government may consider cost in deciding whether to order power plants to undertake environmental upgrades that would protect fish.
 
The court's 6-3 decision is a defeat for environmentalists who had urged the justices to uphold a favorable federal appeals court ruling that could have required an estimated 554 power plants to install technology that relies on recycled water for cooling.
 
By reducing water intake, the closed-cycle cooling also results in fewer fish being sucked into the system or smashed against screens. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates water-intake systems at power plants kill 3.4 billion fish and shellfish each year.
 
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said that the Clean Water Act does not allow cost to be used when deciding what technology would best minimize environmental impacts.
 
But Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said even the appeals court and environmentalists "concede that some form of cost-benefit analysis is permitted."
 
In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens cited "powerful evidence" that Congress did not want cost-benefit analyses to be used in determining the best available technology for reducing the number of fish killed. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter also dissented.