The agency says the final rule establishes safeguards to protect communities from coal ash impoundment failures and establishes safeguards to prevent groundwater contamination and air emissions from coal ash disposal.
The coal industry welcomed the rules regulating coal ash as non-hazardous.
“The regulatory uncertainty that has impeded the beneficial use of coal ash for half a decade has finally come to an end,” said Thomas H. Adams, American Coal Ash Association executive director. “EPA’s final decision to regulate coal ash as a ‘non-hazardous’ material puts science ahead of politics and clears the way for beneficial use of ash to begin growing again — thereby keeping ash out of landfills and disposal ponds in the first place.”
According to the EPA, in response to comments received on the proposal, the final rule makes a number of changes by providing greater clarity on technical requirements for coal ash landfills and surface impoundments under Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the nation’s primary law for regulating solid waste.
Implementation of these technical requirements will be reported through comprehensive and regular disclosure to states, and communities to enable them to monitor and oversee these requirements. The rule requires that power plant owners and operators provide detailed information to citizens and states to fully understand how their communities may be impacted. The rule sets out new transparency requirements, including recordkeeping and reporting requirements, as well as the requirement for each facility to post specific information to a publicly-accessible website. This will provide the public with information such as annual groundwater monitoring results, and corrective action reports, coal ash fugitive dust control plans, and closure completion notifications.
This final rule also supports the responsible recycling of coal ash by distinguishing safe, beneficial use from disposal. In 2012, almost 40 percent of all coal ash produced was recycled (beneficially used), rather than disposed.
Waste Management is expecting to see a significant growth in its sales from the final coal ash rule.
Photo Credit: coal power plant via Shutterstock