As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reviews comments submitted regarding its plans to regulate coal-ash waste, industry groups say they are optimistic that the agency will ultimately favor less-stringent non-hazardous regulations, according to January news reports.
Evidence includes an ongoing tussle between EPA and the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) plus opposition to a Subtitle C—hazardous waste—approach, including members of Congress, many states, other federal agencies, and a host of industry groups.
GMA, the Geosynthetic Materials Association, was one of many industry stakeholders that presented official comments during the EPA’s coal-ash public hearings conducted last fall.
According to managing director Andrew Aho, GMA has a long-maintained position that coal combustion residuals (CCRs) can be safely contained as solid waste and that a designation as hazardous waste would be overkill. However, regardless of the designation the EPA makes, he said it is clear that through advocacy efforts by GMA and others, the use of liners will be required in the disposal of coal-ash waste.
Industry concerns that a hazardous waste ruling also would stigmatize beneficial recycling of coal ash have helped scale back the agency’s original draft measure that favored regulating coal ash as hazardous waste.
One indication the agency is preparing for less direct control is that EPA officials are now also working on new Clean Water Act (CWA) rules that regulate discharges from coal-ash impoundments and other utility sources.
The EPA’s actions were prompted by the December 2008 coal-ash containment failure in Kingston, Tenn., that released millions of gallons of sludge across hundreds of acres in eastern Tennessee.