EPA to Seek Comment on New Coal Ash Data, Following Criticism

Date: April 18, 2011

Source: News Room

The EPA said it plans to give stakeholders the opportunity to comment on its data and analysis of how to regulate the disposal of coal combustion residue (CCR) amid criticisms from both environmentalists and industry that the initial proposal did not adequately assess its risk and economic impacts. EPA waste chief Mathy Stanislaus told the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Environment & Economy April 14 that "EPA plans to issue a notice of data availability [NODA] in the next month or so to provide the public an opportunity to comment on certain information and data we have received during the public comment period."

So far, EPA's proposal, issued in July 2010, has drawn more than 450,000 public comments, including strong opposition from industry groups which argue that regulating CCR as a "special waste" subject to regulation under strict subtitle C requirements of the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) would create a "stigma" that would discourage its beneficial reuse in cement, gypsum and other products. House lawmakers recently introduced separate bills that would block EPA from regulating CCR under subtitle C, (HR 1390 and HR1405). Conversely, Democrats and environmental groups argue that regulation under subtitle C rules is the only way for the EPA to adequately manage CCRs which if not properly contained, can harm the environment. The volume of comments led EPA and Administrator Lisa Jackson, who had originally sought to issue a final rule in 2011, to postpone any rulemaking and instead seek further analysis.

Among the comments are several from industry and environmental groups criticizing EPA's cost-benefit and risk assessments. Environmentalists, for example, charged late last year that EPA's cost-benefit analysis contained errors -- including mathematical mistakes, omitted health and environmental costs and overstated benefits of coal ash recycling. Industry groups, meanwhile, have charged that EPA's draft risk assessment significantly overstates risks to human health but that even if those risks were accepted, the waste's disposal still falls within the safe risk range sought by the Superfund program.

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