The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed further amendments to the regulations governing the disposal of coal combustion residuals, commonly known as coal ash. This proposal is the first of three planned revisions to address matters raised in litigation, legislation, petitions for reconsideration and rule implementation, EPA says.
“Today, the agency is proposing sensible changes that will improve the coal ash regulations and continue to encourage appropriate beneficial use,” says EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a July 30 news release. “These proposed changes will further responsible management of coal ash while protecting human health and the environment.”
The proposal addresses two issues remanded back to EPA for action. EPA is proposing a modification to one of the criteria used to determine if coal ash is being beneficially used or would be considered disposal.
Currently, when users plan to place 12,400 tons or more of unencapsulated coal ash on the land in non-roadway applications, they must perform an environmental demonstration. EPA is proposing to replace the numerical threshold for triggering an environmental demonstration with location-based criteria (e.g., placement in an unstable area, wetland, floodplain, fault area or seismic zone) derived from the existing requirements in the 2015 coal ash final rule.
The second proposed change is to the requirements for managing piles of coal ash. Currently, there are different requirements for piles depending on whether the pile is on-site at, for example, an electric utility, or off-site for beneficial use. The proposal would establish a single approach, which would apply to all temporary placement of unencapsulated coal ash on the land, regardless of whether a pile is on-site or off-site and regardless of whether the coal ash in the pile is destined for beneficial use or disposal.
The following three additional changes are also being proposed:
- Revisions to the annual groundwater monitoring and corrective action report requirements to make the data easier to understand and evaluate, including a requirement to summarize the results in an executive summary;
- Establishment of an alternative groundwater protection standard for boron using the same methodology used for other coal ash constituents, which would be finalized if boron is added to the list of constituents for assessment monitoring; and
- Revisions to the coal ash website requirements to ensure that relevant facility information required by the regulations is immediately available to the public.