On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced further proposed revisions to the regulations for the management of coal combustion residuals (CCR), or coal ash, from electric utilities.
“This proposal is the last in a set of four planned actions we are taking under the Trump Administration to stabilize coal ash regulations for the power-producing utilities that we rely on every day,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said. “While the majority of the protections in EPA’s 2015 rules are currently in place and being implemented on schedule, these common-sense changes will provide the flexibilities owners and operators need to determine the most appropriate way to manage CCR and the closure of units based on site-specific conditions.”
This proposal includes four main changes. The first would be procedures to allow a limited number of facilities to demonstrate to the EPA that based on groundwater data and design of a particular surface impoundment, the unit has and will continue to provide the equivalent protection from impacts on groundwater as provided by the composite liner system standards and should be allowed to continue to operate.
A modification to closure requirements was added for units that are unable to complete groundwater remediation by the time all other closure activities have been completed. Under this new provision, groundwater remediation must continue until groundwater protection standards are achieved during a post-closure period.
It also includes an amendment to the notification of intent to close requirement to require the date the facility began closure, and annual closure progress reports. This provision is intended to close a gap in reported information and increase transparency, the EPA said.
It also added conditions under which coal ash can be used in the closure of landfills and surface impoundments.
In 2015, the EPA promulgated a rule establishing a comprehensive set of requirements for the management of coal ash generated from coal-fired electric utilities, in landfills and surface impoundments, along with inspection, monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Most of the 2015 rule remains in place and implementation continues on schedule.
The majority of existing impoundments designed and built before 2015 are on the path to stop receiving coal ash and re moving forward with their closure, according to the EPA.
The EPA is holding a 45-day public comment period, during which a public hearing will be held. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/coalash.