Press ReleaseFeb 27, 2012
Markey to NRC: Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station Re-Licensing Must Comply with Endangered Species Act
WASHINGTON (February 27, 2012) – Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee and dean of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, today sent letters to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) asserting that NRC has not complied with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station re-license extension, and called for NRC and NOAA to comply with all the legal requirements before the license extension is granted. Two species of fish known to occur in the region – the Atlantic sturgeon and river herring – were not included in NRC’s July 2007 biological assessment of species that could be impacted by the facility’s operations, a requirement under the ESA that must be completed prior to re-licensing. In addition, the ESA requires that NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) either issue a written concurrence with NRC’s assessment or write a biological opinion that sets forth its own proposal for the protection of endangered or threatened species that could be impacted by the license extension for the power plant. The current license for Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station expires in June 2012, and Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., the operator of the facility, has requested permission to continue operating the plant for another 20 years.
“The NRC should not continue with the relicensing process for Pilgrim until the law is fully complied with,” said Rep. Markey. “Since the NRC’s biological assessment does not consider these two species of fish, it is incomplete and must be revised. The National Marine Fisheries Service must also weigh in before Pilgrim can be re-licensed.”
In 2007, the NRC issued a biological assessment for Pilgrim re-licensing in which it concluded that operating the facility for an additional two decades would not have any adverse impact on any threatened or endangered marine aquatic species. Since then, however, the NMFS declared that Atlantic sturgeon is “threatened” under the ESA and two species of river herring are candidates for listing, rendering NRC’s 2007 assessment incomplete. In addition, in cases where the biological opinion finds that there would be adverse impacts on species or when NMFS disagrees with the NRC’s assessment, relicensing may not proceed unless the NMFS suggests ways to avoid or mitigate those impacts.