The Environmental Protection Agency still cannot provide a “definitive time”
for promulgating final regulations on the management of coal ash from power
plants, an agency senior official told BNA.
Mathy Stanislaus, EPA assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency
response, said Jan. 7 the agency needs to issue an additional notice of data
availability prior to issuing final regulations because of new information that
“could potentially influence our risk analysis and cost estimates.”
Stanislaus said EPA is working to issue the notice “as soon as we can.”
EPA also will attempt to align the coal ash regulations with upcoming
effluent guidelines for coal-fired power plants to the “greatest extent
possible,” Stanislaus said. Environmental groups agreed in December to extend a
court-ordered deadline to April 19, 2013, for the effluent guidelines proposed
rule (43 ER 3210, 12/14/12).
Stanislaus said the final regulations will aim to prevent groundwater
contamination from mismanagement of coal ash products and catastrophic
structural failures like the Kingston, Tenn., dam break in December 2008 that
spilled 5.4 million cubic yards of coal-ash sludge into nearby waterways.
“We clearly believe that we need to move forward and address those risks,”
Coal ash is a residue from coal-fired power plants.
Stanislaus also told BNA he plans to remain as assistant administrator for
the second Obama term.
EPA continues to support “safe” options for beneficial reuse of coal ash
products because of their environmental and economic benefits, according to
“We want to continue to support the safe beneficial reuse of coal ash,” he
said. “We believe the safe and environmentally sound recycling [of coal ash] is
protective of all public health and provides economic opportunities and jobs.
The proposed rule maintains the regulatory exemption for beneficial reuse.”
Although he declined to comment on proposed congressional legislation on the
management of coal ash, Stanislaus said the agency continues to provide Congress
with technical comments and assistance. He said the agency will offer technical
comments to the Senate shortly on legislation proposed by Sen. John Hoeven
(R-N.D.) during the last session.
The Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act (S. 3512), introduced by Hoeven in
August 2012 would establish a framework for coal ash regulation and bar EPA from
regulating the material as a hazardous waste. Hoeven will attempt again to
advance the legislation in this Congress.
A December Congressional Research Service report found the legislation, and a
similar bill in the House, would not ensure the implementation of federal
standards necessary to protect human health and the environment. Industry groups
and Hoeven's office disputed the findings (43 ER 3201, 12/14/12).
EPA proposed two options for regulating coal ash under the Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act in May 2010. One would regulate it under Subtitle
C of RCRA as a special waste, subjecting it to hazardous waste regulations,
while the other would regulate it as a nonhazardous waste under Subtitle D,
subjecting it to solid waste regulations.
That proposed rule received more than 450,000 public comments, according to
Environmental groups filed a lawsuit in April 2012, later joined by coal ash
recyclers, asking a federal court to set a firm deadline for a final rule.
Environmentalists asked for a final rule to be promulgated within six months of
the court decision, while recyclers asked for a decision within three months on
whether EPA would regulate coal ash under hazardous waste regulations
(Appalachian Voices v. EPA,D.D.C., No. 1:12-cv-00523, motion filed
In a December court filing, EPA said “no final decisions have yet been made”
on the regulation. An earlier court declaration in October indicated it could
take the agency upward of a year to promulgate final regulations on coal ash
management (43 ER 3272, 12/21/12).
By Anthony Adragna
More information on the coal ash rulemaking is available at http://www.epa.gov/wastes/nonhaz/industrial/special/fossil/ccr-rule/index.htm.