Date: July 29, 2021
Earthjustice has released a report "Cleaning Up Coal Ash for Good" that addresses the closure of coal ash impoundments and urges so-called "clean closure" where ash is removed to lined landfills or for beneficial reuse and urges the EPA to bar cap-in-place closure.
EPA's 2015 coal combustion residual (CCR) rule explicitly regulates ash as solid waste under subtitle D of the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA). Since then, environmental groups have argued that leaving ash in an underground impoundment indefinitely all but guarantees that groundwater will eventually flow into the site and mingle with the waste.
Earthjustice is urging EPA to interpret the rule in a way that bars cap-in-place closure when the ash impoundment is in contact with groundwater or when it is in a flood plain or area susceptible to flooding. The power industry argues that dried-out ash poses no significant environmental hazards, while excavating the ash for removal is far more costly and fraught with peril. On the other hand, the waste industry has been frustrated that more of these wastes, estimated to be in excess of 114 million tons per year, have not flowed into their subtitle D landfills.
To learn more, see: "Report: Cleaning Up Toxic Coal Ash Creates Local Jobs, Protects Public Health, and Restores the Environment" (https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2021/report-cleaning-up-coal-ash-creates-jobs-protects-health-restores-environment)