States Battle Activists Over Existing Coal Ash Regulation

Date: November 25, 2011

Source: News Room

As EPA considers whether to regulate coal combustion residuals (CCRs) as either hazardous waste under subtitle C of the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA), or less stringently as solid waste under RCRA subtitle D, states and the power industry continue to fight activists’ claims that existing state controls on coal ash disposal lack “essential safeguards.” They call the claims “insulting” and say they are based on a skewed reading of data on coal ash disposal. EPA recently closed public comment on an Oct. 12 notice of data availability (NODA) to regulate CCRs. EPA sought comment on new information including the chemical constituents of CCRs, facility and waste management units and the adequacy of state ash programs.

Environmental groups say the reports and new data in the NODA confirm their claim that states are failing to adequately manage coal ash disposal, raising the risk of a coal ash storage site failure similar to the massive Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash spill in 2008. They say EPA should apply strict hazardous waste rules as a way to maintain some command and control over CCR disposal.

Several lawmakers, industry and state officials argue that a subtitle C rulemaking would impose massive costs and decimate the beneficial reuse industry that uses coal ash in products such as cement. For example, the Association of State & Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) and the Environmental Council of the States are supporting legislation in Congress that would bar EPA from regulating coal ash as hazardous.

ASTSWMO argues that activists interpret data from reports and studies “in a way that makes the programs appear to be less effective than actually reported,” accusing activists of “drawing conclusions that contradict the conclusions in the reports themselves,” “exaggerating the content in a cited reference” and “interpreting referenced information too literally.”

Earthjustice in its November 2010 comments on EPA’s proposed ash rules says the agency’s regulatory impact analysis for the proposal “drastically underestimates the inadequacy of state regulations by ignoring exemptions from and opportunities for variance of state regulatory requirements and by failing to distinguish between the mandatory requirement of essential safeguards and state standards that are merely discretionary.”

ASTSWMO counters that Earthjustice is using an “unconventional” approach to analyze state ash controls by focusing solely on states that have mandatory CCR requirements, not acknowledging states that have ash control requirements in place but allow varying controls at different sites due to site-specific considerations.

See also:
“EPA Considers Strict New Limits on Coal Ash Discharges from Power Plants,” (www.wastebusinessjournal.com/news/wbj20111122C.htm).

“Coal Ash Spill Prompts Call For EPA Strict Regulation,” (www.wastebusinessjournal.com/news/wbj20111108A.htm).

“House Passes Bill to Force EPA to Regulate Coal Ash under Subtitle D,” (www.wastebusinessjournal.com/news/wbj20111018B.htm).

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