EPA issues interim guidance for state coal ash management programs
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued interim final guidance aimed at helping states develop their own permitting programs to deal with coal combustion residuals — better known as coal ash.
- The rules, issued two years ago, stopped short of declaring coal ash a hazardous waste and allowed states to implement programs as "self managing," meaning oversight would be done by stakeholders and through complaints.
- EPA's guidance, issued this week, outlines the agency's statutory interpretations and the way in which it generally intends to review state programs.
Coal ash management is a significant issue in states with large amounts of coal generation, and the EPA's guidance will help direct how state programs are developed. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt described the approach as "cooperative federalism."
"We continue to consult with our state partners to find the best management strategy for the safe disposal of coal ash in each of their states,” Pruitt said in a statement. “We intend for this new guidance to help states by making the permit program approval process easier to navigate.”
In April 2015, the EPA published a final rule regulating the management and disposal of CCR as nonhazardous waste, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Unlike many other EPA rules, the requirements of the CCR rule apply directly to regulated facilities and are enforceable through citizen suits.
Alexandra Dunn, executive director and general counsel of the Environmental Council of the States, said the new guidance will put more states on track to obtain CCR authority.
"With CCR authority at the state level, communities will have increased access to information about CCR management activities, and regulated facilities will have robust and streamlined compliance requirements," Dunn said.
The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, enacted last year, gives states the opportunity to act as the primary regulatory and enforcement authority over coal ash through the establishment of EPA-approved state permit programs. However, approved state permit programs must be as protective as the federal coal ash regulations. States, however, may provide flexibilities for facilities managing coal ash in their states
EPA will take comments for 30 days on the new guidance, which can be found here, following publication in the Federal Register.
Follow Robert Walton on Twitter