Tag Archives: coal waste

Latest on EPA’s Coal Ash Regulatory Proposal

Earlier this week the House Subcommittee on Rural Development, Entrepreneurship & Trade held a hearing on EPA’s proposal to classify coal ash (also known as coal combustion products (CCP)) as federally-regulated hazardous waste.  Read more about the proposal.

The press release released by the Subcommittee stated:

During the hearing, entrepreneurs in the recycling industry said that a hazardous waste classification carries a stigma and would raise liability fears, making it difficult to use coal ash in building materials.  Lawmakers also questioned whether the EPA had evaluated the full impact the proposed rule might have on small businesses.  In one exchange with lawmakers, the EPA witness conceded that stiffer regulation of coal ash could potentially cause a 6 percent increase in electricity rates.

Should coal ash be classified as hazardous waste, there is also a potential for third party claims for existing building materials that contain the material.  Stay tuned.

EPA Publishes Proposal on Coal Ash Management

EPA has issued both a press release and a statement on its website announcing its proposed rule concerning the management of coal combustion products (CCP, also called “coal ash”).  In the news release, EPA said:

The proposal opens a national dialogue by calling for public comment on two approaches for addressing the risks of coal ash management under the nation’s primary law for regulating solid waste, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). One option is drawn from authorities available under Subtitle C, which creates a comprehensive program of federally enforceable requirements for waste management and disposal. The other option includes remedies under Subtitle D, which gives EPA authority to set performance standards for waste management facilities and would be enforced primarily through citizen suits. A chart comparing and contrasting the two approaches is available on EPA’s Web site.

Under both approaches proposed by EPA, the agency would leave in place the Bevill exemption for beneficial uses of coal ash in which coal combustion residuals are recycled as components of products instead of placed in impoundments or landfills. Large quantities of coal ash are used today in concrete, cement, wallboard and other contained applications that should not involve any exposure by the public to unsafe contaminants. These uses would not be impacted by today’s proposal.

The proposed rule is 563 pages long in the pre-publication form, but EPA developed a table to simply a comparison of the two regulatory approaches in the rule.

Coal Ash May Become Regulated as Hazardous Waste

The environmental newsletter of the Association of General Contractors (AGC) sheds some light on the status of EPA’s developing regulation of coal ash or coal combustion products (CCP).  The newsletter indicated that

the agency expects to release a rulemaking on coal combustion residuals (or waste) in April 2010, with a hazardous designation reported likely.

CCP has been exempted from regulation as a hazardous waste through an interpretation of existing hazardous waste law.  Under that interpretation, coal ash was “pardoned” as part of the “Bevill Amendment” – a 1980 amendment to the federal waste management legistration that excluded from regulation certain mining and mineral processing waste.  The amendment also mandated that EPA conduct a study to determine how to manage CCP.

The study was completed and the findings were presented to Congress in 1988 and again in 1999 – both times, EPA recommended that CCP not be regulated as hazardous waste.  Two regulatory determinations were subsequently published – one in 1993 and one in 2000, both again affirming that regulation of CCP as hazardous waste was not warranted.

Although EPA has not yet released its proposed regulation, AGC’s article stated that

sources indicate that EPA is strongly favoring a hazardous waste designation in order to establish standard and federally enforceable practices.

In addition to creating significant direct waste management costs to CCP generators, a hazardous waste designation for CCP would have a detrimental impact on CCP reuse.  CCP-based materials would likely create the potential for third-party liabilities in addition to the costs/questions associated with regulatory compliance.