EPA Coal Ash Study is Grist for Industry and Environmentalists

Date: February 23, 2011

Source: News Room

Industry groups and environmentalists are citing EPA assessments of 69 coal ash impoundments to support their divergent positions on whether the agency should regulate coal combustion residuals as hazardous under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA). Industry says EPA's not finding any of the facilities to be unsatisfactory by agency standards bolsters the case against EPA pursuing "hazardous" waste rules for coal ash disposal. Conversely, environmentalists argue that a lack of complete and up-to-date documentation at 35 of the facilities, a factor that caused EPA to rate the impoundments' safety as "poor," indicates that states are ill-equipped to regulate them safely. EPA released its assessment reports of the 69 impoundments at 20 facilities on Feb. 11 along with "action plans" which outline safety steps to prevent spills from impoundments and other coal ash storage sites in order to avoid a repeat of the massive Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash spill in Kingston, TN, in Dec. 2008. None of the impoundments reviewed by EPA for their structural integrity received the agency's lowest possible rating of "unsatisfactory." However, 35 of the units were rated as "poor," but only because those "units lacked some of the necessary engineering documentation required," EPA says in a statement. EPA's Fall regulatory agenda, issued in December, describes the pending final rule as a "long-term action" with no proposed date for the agency to issue a final regulation.

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