Thursday, August 19, 2010

EPA Sets Dates For Hearings On Coal Ash Regulations

Aug 19: The U.S. EPA announced that it will be hosting seven public hearings on the Agency's controversial proposal to regulate the disposal and management of coal ash from coal-fired power plants. On May 4, U.S. EPA announced it was proposing the first-ever national rules to ensure the safe disposal and management of coal ash from coal-fired power plants. Coal ash, are byproducts of the combustion of coal at power plants and are disposed of in liquid form at large surface impoundments and in solid form at landfills. The residuals contain contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic, which are associated with cancer and various other serious health effects. EPA's risk assessment and damage cases demonstrate that, without proper protections, these contaminants can leach into groundwater and can migrate to drinking water sources, posing significant health public concerns [See WIMS 5/4/10].
    On July 29, U.S. Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA) and 30 Members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, expressing his strong opposition to an EPA proposal to regulate coal combustion residuals (i.e. coal ash) [See WIMS 8/2/10]. Among other things, Boucher said, EPA regulation of coal ash as a hazardous waste could have the effect of destroying jobs by preventing the recycling of coal ash into useful construction products like cement and wall board. Among the signers to the letter were Michigan Representatives Bart Stupak (D) and Fred Upton (R).
    EPA said that each hearing will begin at 10:00 AM and continue until 9:00 PM with a break at noon and 5:00 PM local time. The hearings will continue past 9:00 PM if necessary. People who wish for a guaranteed slot to speak must register no later than three business days before each hearing (See link below). Additionally, walk-ins and written comments will be accepted at each hearing. The Agency will consider the public's comments in its final decision.

    The hearings are scheduled for: August 30: Hyatt Regency, 2799 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, VA; September 2: Grand Hyatt, 1750 Welton Street, Denver, CO; September 8: Hyatt Regency Dallas, 300 Reunion Boulevard, Dallas, TX; September 14: Holiday Inn Charlotte (Airport), 2707 Little Rock Road, Charlotte, NC;
September 16: Hilton Chicago, 720 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL; September 21: Omni Hotel, 530 William Penn Place, Pittsburgh, PA; and September 28: Seelbach Hilton, 500 Fourth Street, Louisville, KY.

    EPA said the need for national management criteria and regulation was emphasized by the December 2008 spill of coal ash from a surface impoundment near Kingston, TN. EPA indicated that the proposal would ensure for the first time that protective controls, such as liners and ground water monitoring, are in place at new landfills to protect groundwater and human health. Existing surface impoundments will also require liners, with strong incentives to close these impoundments and transition to safer landfills which store coal ash in dry form. The proposed regulations would ensure stronger oversight of the structural integrity of impoundments and promote environmentally safe and desirable forms of recycling coal ash, known as beneficial uses. EPA has proposed two main management approaches, one of which phases out surface impoundments and moves all coal ash to landfills; the other allows coal ash to be disposed in surface impoundments, but with stricter safety criteria.

    Access a release from EPA on the meetings (click here). Access EPA's docket on the coal ash regulations (click here). Access more information about the proposed regulation (click here). Access pre-register information by calling (703) 308-8429 or online (click here). Access more information about the proposed regulation (click here). Access a chart comparing the two proposed approaches (click here).