Authorities in charge of the reliability of New York State's power supply warn a policy to protect aquatic life could threaten the dependability of electricity supplies and increase air pollution.

The New York Independent System Operator, which oversees the grid, and the New York State Public Service Commission are encouraging state regulators to proceed cautiously as they finalize new water-use guidelines for power plants. The proposed policy, first released by the state's environmental regulator in March, would phase out a practice by which plants continually draw water from rivers and bays for cooling. Instead, they would be required to have closed systems with cooling towers.

"A broad, hard look at potential impacts of policy implementation on system reliability and emissions should be taken," wrote the commission, which regulates utilities in New York.

So-called once-through cooling is a growing issue in the power industry. California is taking steps similar to New York, and federal regulators are expected to issue new, national rules late this year.

The New York Independent System Operator, or NYISO, warned in a recent filing to the Department of Environmental Conservation that the policy could force power plants to be shut while not leaving enough time for replacements to be built. It estimates the policy could affect more than half of the power plants in New York and potentially leave certain areas such as metro New York City short of power. The conflict over once-through cooling has been especially contentious as Entergy Corp. (ETR) seeks relicensing for its Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson River that supplies roughly a quarter of the power for New York City.

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