As stakeholders battle over how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should regulate coal ash, environmental groups have accused the agency of overstating the benefits of ash recycling as an argument against designating it a hazardous waste.
Cost-benefit figures included in the EPA’s rulemaking proposal estimate that coal-ash recycling is worth about $23 billion a year. However, a recent press release from the group Earthjustice says that estimate is more than 20 times higher than the $1.15 billion the governmentâ€™s own data show is the correct bottom-line number.
“Unfortunately, [they] just got this wrong,” said Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project. “The ‘regulatory impact analysis’ prepared by EPA to support its proposal exaggerates the economic life cycle value of coal-ash recycling …,” the release stated.
Industry leaders have maintained that regulating coal combustion residuals (CCRs) as hazardous waste would harm coal-ash recycling enterprises, including their beneficial reuse in products such as cement and wallboard.
Industry estimates note that U.S. coal-fired power plants generate more than 130 million tons of various ash wastes every year and that about 40% of these wastes are recycled, creating a vibrant industry and avoiding the need for landfilling.