Still Not Clear When EPA Will Issue Coal Ash Regulation

Date: April 15, 2013

Source: News Room

EPA still has no timetable for developing rules to regulate the disposal of coal ash or coal combustion residuals (CCRs). In testimony before a House subcommittee April 11, Mathy Stanislaus, EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, said his agency is still reviewing several hundred thousand public comments on the regulation and plans to solicit additional public comment on the issue. Since a catastrophic failure of one of these ponds at a TVA plant in Kingston, TN in 2008, EPA has debated whether to regulate CCRs as a "hazardous" waste subject to strict subtitle C rules under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), or under less stringent subtitle D rules. EPA said it does not expect to issue a rule until at least 2014. Stanislaus said the agency had laid out in court filings that it "would have some idea in six months, based on the ability to get public input on this data." He said the six-month target is not a deadlineto issue a rule, but a time frame in which the agency should have a better idea of how to proceed.

That delay worries environmentalists who claim that the pollution continues and is in violation of state laws. The industry worries that any hazardous designation would dramatically raise their costs and decimate a vibrant market for recycling the material. States do not like the idea of EPA usurping their regulatory authority. Both groups have lobbied Congress to pass legislation that would bar EPA from doing so. Environmental groups oppose the bill for failing to set a safety standard which a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report said would lead to litigation over congressional intent.

In its regulatory impact analysis, the EPA estimated the average annual cost of regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste would be about $1.47 billion per year, representing a present value of $20.3 billion over 50 years.

Stanislaus said coal ash remains one of the largest waste streams generated in the U.S., with approximately 136 million tons generated in 2008. He said coal combustion residuals contain constituents, such as arsenic, cadmium and mercury, which can pose threats to public health and the environment if improperly managed.

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