Georgia mulls state rules for coal ash waste disposal
- The influx of out-of-state utilities who want to send millions of pounds of coal ash waste to Georgia's landfills has spurred state officials to come up with safeguards guiding the disposal of coal ash, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
- Georgia's Environmental Protection Division (EDP) has proposed to implement existing federal requirements governing the disposal of coal ash, as well as tack on further regulations, including the potential for financial penalities to be levied on landfill or pond leaks.
- The EDP held a stakeholder meeting in Atlanta with utilities, enviromental groups and residents.
Georgia joins South Carolina in considering new regulations to guide how out-of-state utilities dispose of their coal ash waste.
“We don’t have to do anything, but we are proposing to fully implement the (federal) rule and more,” Jeff Cown, who runs the EPD’s land protection branch, told Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We want to have certainty in regulating these facilities in our state.”
Georgia Power, a Southern Co. subsidiary, has already pledged to shutter 29 coal ash ponds and five landfills over a 15-year span to comply with federal regulations. The closures of Georgia Power's coal ash ponds will comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Coal Combustion Residual Rule and anticipated guidelines on Steam Electric Effluent Limitation.
“We’ll make sure we’re 100% in compliance with (EPA’s) closure methods, and if EPD’s intent is to be largely like EPA, then I think our plans are probably in line with them, too,” Aaron Mitchell, Georgia Power's general manager for environmental affairs, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The EPA’s first federal rule on coal ash, the Coal Combustion Residual Rule, was aimed at eliminating the leakage of coal ash into groundwater, the blowing of contaminants into the air as dust, and the catastrophic failure of coal ash surface impoundments. The rule, which was released in December 2014, disappointed both environmentalists and the industry because it failed to classify coal ash as hazardous waste and is being enforced as a self-implementing rule, respectively.
North Carolina and Virginia are two other Southern states currently grappling with how to handle coal ash, with North Carolina being home to the infamous Dan River coal ash spill that occurred in 2014.
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution Georgia to consider own rules for handling toxic coal ash
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