States Continue Opposition to EPA Ruling Coal Waste 'Hazardous'

Date: April 5, 2010

Source: News Room

State environment officials continue to oppose EPA designation of coal combustion waste (CCW) as a 'hazardous waste" under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) and are instead seeking less-stringent "solid" waste rules covered by state regulation. The EPA is considering a "hybrid" approach in which CCW would be classified as hazardous under certain conditions and non-hazardous in others such as beneficial reuse applications.

The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), in a resolution approved March 23 said that any federal regulation of coal waste is "not warranted" and would be duplicative of state efforts to address the material as a solid waste. Many activists seized on the December 2008 rupture of a coal ash containment pond in Kingston, TN as justification for long overdue regulation of the material as hazardous and therefore subject to federal oversight. Meanwhile, industry argues that calling the waste hazardous even under limited circumstances, would create a stigma that would discourage reuse of the material, such as in concrete.

Speaking at the ECOS waste committee meeting March 23, EPA waste chief Mathy Stanislaus emphasized that the agency hopes to increase beneficial reuse. "One thing I want to reinforce; we want to not only continue beneficial reuse, but we also want to develop strategies to increase beneficial use." He also said that the upcoming rulemaking will address concerns about the "mismanagement" of coal ash disposal and aim for more "effective management" of it, while promoting reuse. However, EPA lawyers have said that solid waste rules for coal ash would be unenforceable at the federal level and create major permitting uncertainty, in line with industry arguments. ECOS' resolution says that if EPA promulgates a federal regulatory program it should only be under subtitle D, a section of the law in which most states have won delegated federal authority.

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