On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took steps toward finalizing a federal permitting program for the disposal of coal ash and establish regulations for coal ash surface impoundments. Actions include proposing decisions on requests for extensions to the current deadline for initiating closure of unlined coal combustion residuals (CCR) surface impoundments; putting several facilities on notice regarding their obligations to comply with CCR regulations; and laying out plans for future regulatory actions to ensure coal ash impoundments meet environmental and safety standards.

The EPA said it will work with states during the decision process.

“Coal ash surface impoundments and landfills must operate and close in a manner that protects public health and the environment,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said.

The EPA’s regulations required most of the approximately 500 unlined coal ash surface impoundments nationwide to stop receiving waste and begin closure by April 2021. The regulations outlined a process for facilities to apply for two types of extensions to the closure deadline.

The EPA received and reviewed 57 applications from CCR facilities requesting deadline extensions. It determined 52 were complete. Four were incomplete, which included the Dallman Power station in Illinois, Erickson Generating Station in Michigan, Meramec Energy Center in Missouri, and Sioux Energy Center in Missouri. One, Greenidge in New York, is ineligible for an extension.

Of the 52 complete applications received, the EPA said it conducted technical analyses and is proposing determinations on four applications, with more determinations planned in the coming months.

The EPA is proposing denying three requests for deadline extensions after identifying several potential deficiencies with groundwater monitoring, cleanup and closure activities, including a lack of monitoring wells, improper monitoring techniques, faulty identification of other sources of groundwater contamination, and insufficient evaluations of clean-up technologies. The EPA is proposing a conditional approval for one request, which would require the facility to fix groundwater monitoring issues.

The EPA is also notifying facilities of compliance obligations where the agency has information concerning the possible presence of issues. The concerns include improper groundwater monitoring, insufficient cleanup information, and the regulation of inactive surface impoundments.

The EPA will work in collaboration with states on facility compliance. The EPA said it will also continue to review state-level CCR program applications to ensure they are as protective as federal regulations.

In April 2015, the EPA promulgated a comprehensive set of requirements for the management of coal ash in landfills and impoundments.

The comment period will begin on January 25 when the proposed determinations are posted in the docket in Regulations.gov, and end on February 23. For a list of the individual determinations and how to comment, visit www.epa.gov/coalash/coal-combustion-residuals-ccr-part-implementation.