News | June 27, 2011

FOIA Lawsuit Targets U.S. Department Of Energy For Withholding 'Water Energy Roadmap' Ordered By Congress

Civil Society Institute Takes Action Based on Concerns That Report Critical of Nuclear And Coal Power Water Demands is Being Suppressed or Toned Down


Washington, D.C. — A report ordered by Congress in 2005 on the connection between U.S. energy production and demands on water supplies is the target of a Freedom of Information Action (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI) against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The litigation was filed after DOE failed to respond to a CSI FOIA request for a so-far-unreleased second portion of a report on the relationship between the nation's water supplies and energy needs. CSI believes this portion of the report will address the water impacts of new electricity generation, including the potential impacts from additional nuclear reactors and from so-called "carbon capture and storage" (CCS) of carbon emitted from the combustion of coal.  

According to CSI's complaint, the first part of the report was made public in 2006, but the second portion, titled the "National Energy-Water Roadmap" and drafted by experts at the Sandia National Laboratories, has been held up since July 2006.   According to the complaint:  "On information and belief, DOE has blocked the issuance of the Roadmap over the last four years because it shows energy policy has not given adequate consideration to the nation's limited water resources."

Pam Solo, founder and president, Civil Society Institute, said: "This is a classic example of why documents like this should be made public and in a timely fashion. In 2005, Congress mandated a water-energy blueprint as an essential piece of information for energy policy making. Without this roadmap, water availability and water quality issues remain unaddressed.  As a result, Congress and the President are flying blind without a clear understanding of whether water is available for the proposed expansion of nuclear power plants and ‘clean coal' plants under what is euphemistically being termed a ‘Clean Energy Standard.' This is not a side issue, but a central and pivotal piece of data that should inform and guide energy decision making."

Solo added: "We are deeply concerned by the appearance that the study was done and then buried (or is currently being watered down) because it raised major and legitimate concerns about the impact of new power generation on increasingly scarce U.S. water resources, particularly in chronically drought-afflicted portions of the nation.  If this concern is not merited, then DOE should release the study and clear the air.  If our concerns are well founded, we expect to learn more as we vigorously pursue the FOIA litigation."

For a copy of the lawsuit, go to on the Web.

On January 25, 2011, CSI released an analysis by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., showing:

  • As growing swaths of the United States face dwindling water supplies and even outright drought, the U.S. electric sector already withdraws 42 trillion gallons of water each year — more than 200 billion gallons a day, the equivalent of more than half of the water flowing through the Ohio River each year.
  • Titled "Benefits of Beyond Business as Usual," the Synapse report for CSI notes: "… we estimate that generators along the Ohio River withdraw so much water that for every gallon which spills into the Mississippi River at Cairo, IL, one cup has passed through a generator on the banks of the Ohio River, and one tablespoon has evaporated to the atmosphere …According to data collected by the United States Geographic Survey (USGS), water withdrawals from thermoelectric power sources account for 49 percent of total withdrawals in the United States in 2005. This is equivalent to more than 201 billion gallons of water per day that is used for power plant cooling alone."
  • The nearly trillion gallons of water used by coal plant cooling systems each year represents over 2000 gallons for each person in the U.S.

To read the "Benefits of Beyond Business as Usual" report, go to on the Web.

About Civil Society Institute
Based in Newton, MA, the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute ( is a think tank that serves as a catalyst for change by creating problem-solving interactions among people, and between communities, government and business that can help to improve society.   Since 2003, CSI has conducted nearly 30 major national and state-level surveys on a range of issues including climate change, coal, nuclear, global warming, wind and other renewable energy, vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, consumer demand for hybrids/other highly-fuel efficient vehicles, and gas prices.  In addition to being a co-convener of CLEAN (, CSI also is the parent organization of ( and the Hybrid Owners of America (


CONTACT:  Ailis Aaron Wolf, (703) 276-3265 or

SOURCE: Civil Society Institute