Environmental Regulation

EPA to Decide On Coal Ash This Year

By Cathy Cash | ECT Staff Writer Published: February 3rd, 2014

The Environmental Protection Agency has signed an agreement with industry and environmentalists requiring the agency to decide this year how it will regulate coal ash from power plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to determine by Dec. 19 how it will regulate coal ash from power plants. (Photo By: iStock)

The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to determine by Dec. 19 how it will regulate coal ash from power plants. (Photo By: iStock)

Under the consent decree, EPA has until Dec. 19 to determine whether it will regulate coal combustion residuals as hazardous or nonhazardous under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The consent decree was filed Jan. 29 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Agency officials have indicated a preference for a nonhazardous designation, which would not upset recycling of the byproducts for construction purposes. Industry leaders say they will continue to work towards an outcome that is feasible for states and the power sector.

“We are hopeful EPA will reach such a nonhazardous designation. We do, however, have serious problems with the nonhazardous approach in EPA’s 2010 proposal,” said Dorothy Kellogg, NRECA senior principal for environmental issues.

“Because EPA lacks authority to compel states to adopt federal nonhazardous standards, the proposed program would be enforced through citizen suits and the courts. We need coal ash legislation like that passed by the House to settle this matter.”

On Capitol Hill, House members from both parties overwhelmingly passed a bill last July that would require EPA to defer to states to manage and dispose of coal ash. The new consent decree deadline has triggered House leaders to urge the Senate to do the same and end the regulatory uncertainty surrounding the EPA rule that is chilling investment and job creation.

“We can close this regulatory gap today if only the Senate were to take up our bill,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.

NRECA and a broad coalition of American workers support the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013 that was crafted by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.

“A legislative solution will give more certainty for the hundreds of thousands of Americans whose jobs depend on it,” he said. “With this court decision, it makes it even more imperative for the Senate to pass this bill.”

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