Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Nissequogue, Millstone, and a Saugatuck Oysterman

There's a plan afoot to protect the Nissequogue River on Long Island, which Newsday says ...

... runs through one of the largest coastal wetlands on the North Shore and is the only major tidal river draining into Long Island Sound whose coastal portion remains relatively undisturbed.

An activist in eastern Connecticut is suing to have the state removed from overseeing the work at the Millstone nuclear power plant that is designed to reduce the number of fish killed by the plant's cooling system. But leading environmentalists think that if the state keeps working on it, the solution will come sooner. From the Hartford Courant:

Every day, the Waterford plant draws 2 billion gallons of water from Niantic Bay to cool its two nuclear reactors, then dumps the heated water back into Long Island Sound. The recycling system would cut the amount of water the plant needs — and lower the fish kill by 90 percent.

If it can't install such a system, Dominion would have to come up with an equivalent plan. In the meantime, the company has agreed to take immediate measures to cut its water usage.Two environmental groups who helped negotiate the terms of the new permit say it finally will put Millstone on the right track. Terry Backer, head of one of those groups, Soundkeeper, said that the permit will accomplish in three years what could have taken a decade through the courts.

"I'm not sure getting into court will in any way expedite getting rid of the giant fish-killing machine," he said.

Environmentalists still fault the DEP for failing to press Millstone harder through the years. But Roger Reynolds, an attorney with the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, said that the DEP has made progress since Gina McCarthy took over as commissioner.

But in her lawsuit now before the Supreme Court, Burton is asking the court to take over the process. She contends that the DEP has illegally allowed Millstone to operate with an expired permit. The plant's water discharge permit, required under the federal Clean Water Act, expired in 1997.Burton charges that "collusion and corruption characterize the relationship between DEP and Dominion." She said in the lawsuit that former DEP Commissioner Arthur Rocque signed off on emergency authorizations to extend Millstone's permit, even though he suspected that they might violate the law.

Burton also charged that the DEP hearing officer overseeing the permit has a conflict of interest because she once ran an agency that oversees transport of Millstone's radioactive waste to a South Carolina dump.

The state dismisses her accusations as baseless. The DEP has blamed the long permit delay on changing federal policies and court battles.

And here's a good profile of one independent oysterman in Westport -- a bit melodramatic at times but worth a read.


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