EPA Proposes Changes to Environmental Protection Requirements for Utility Coal Ash Sites

EPA Proposes Changes to Environmental Protection Requirements for Utility Coal Ash Sites

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing changes related to utility coal as sites such as eliminating the tonnage limit, merging onsite and offsite coal ash definitions and increasing transparency for utility groundwater filings.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing changes to environmental protection requirements for utility coal ash sites. These changes include eliminating the tonnage limit, merging onsite and offsite coal ash definitions and increasing utility groundwater filings transparency.

Companies with coal ash fill projects larger than 12,400 tons currently must make sure the surrounding water, soil and air were not impacted by the ash from the site. However, Trump’s EPA would like to eliminate that provision and only enforce it at sites that have geological vulnerabilities. This change would not establish an upper limit on tonnage.

Storage of dry ash was previously separated into two separate categories — onsite and offsite. Another proposed change by the EPA would merge these definitions if the onsite ash provides evidence that it is a “temporary accumulation” and will eventually be recycled.

Thomas Adams, the executive director of the American Coal Ash Association told Utility Dive that the merging definitions will make it easier for companies to recycle the waste.

"The concern was that if ... fly ash was being placed in a pile at a utility plant prior to being moved to a cement kiln for use in making Portland cement they were not regulated the same as if that pile was on the cement company's property already," Adams said.

However, environmentalists feel differently. Lisa Evans, the senior attorney at Earthjustice told Utility Dive that this way of disposing waste is hazardous.

"[The waste piles will be] exposed to erosion by wind and water, and subject to surface runoff, and to soaking by rain, which makes the chemicals leach out of it," Evans said. "It's a very dangerous way of disposing of waste."

The last proposed change would be made in efforts to increase transparency for facilities who provide groundwater monitoring data.

"The purpose of requiring posting of the annual reports is to allow the public, states and EPA to easily see and understand the groundwater monitoring data," said EPA.

The public hearing on the proposal will be held on Oct. 2, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

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