EPA and Coal Ash Pond Regulation: 2018 Update

On March 1, 2018, EPA proposed rules to amend several provisions of the Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities final rule (the “CCR Rule”). EPA accepted written comments on this proposal through Regulations.gov under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2017-0286 and held a hearing on the proposed rule on April 24, 2018. The comment period ended on April 30, 2018. As noted in EPA’s public hearing announcement, EPA estimates that the proposed rules would save the regulated community between $31 million and $100 million per year.

Despite EPA’s proposed amendments, Bloomberg Environment recently reported that Duke Energy and the Tennessee Valley Authority still plan on closing certain coal ash ponds. Duke Energy’s “Ash Management & Safe Basin Closure” webpage notes that “water will be safely removed from each basin in a way that protects water quality in the nearby lake or river.” https://duke-energy.com/our-company/about-us/power-plants/ash-management/safe-basin-closure (last visited 05/21/2018).

On December 22, 2008, a large coal combustion residue (“CCR” or “coal ash”) spill occurred at the Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in Kingston, TN.  This prompted EPA to assess risks from coal ash, including leaking of contaminants into ground water, blowing of contaminants into the air as dust, and the catastrophic failure of coal ash surface impoundments. EPA went on to publish the CCR Rule on April 17, 2015. The CCR rule established technical requirements for coal ash landfills and surface impoundments under subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

The proposed rules provides the permitting authority the ability to set certain alternative performance standards, allows certain facilities to qualify for alternative closure, and addresses nearly a dozen other issues under the CCR Rule.

For more information or questions regarding this article, please contact Phillip Hoover or Ed Ezekiel.