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Coal Ash Regulation Policy Guide


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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering classifying coal combustion residues, more commonly known as coal ash, as a hazardous waste. CCRs are byproducts of the combustion of coal at power plants and

are disposed of in liquid form at large surface impoundments, in solid form at landfills, or in many cases beneficially recycled .This classification would place strict and expensive regulations on coal ash, burdening both coal power plant owners and the $2-billion-a year coal ash recycling trade that uses the byproduct for a variety of purposes.

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Coal Ash Regulation Policy Guide

  1. 1. For more information and sources please visit www.RegulatoryTrainWreck.comEPA’SREGULATORYTRAINWRECK:STRATEGIESFORSTATELEGISLATORSREGULATION OF COAL COMBUSTION RESIDUES (CCRS)WHAT IS IT?The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) is considering classifying coal combustionresidues, more commonly known as coal ash,as a hazardous waste. CCRs are byproducts ofthe combustion of coal at power plants andare disposed of in liquid form at large surfaceimpoundments, in solid form at landfills,or in many cases beneficially recycled .Thisclassification would place strict and expensiveregulations on coal ash, burdening both coalpower plant owners and the $2-billion-a-year coal ash recycling trade that uses thebyproduct for a variety of purposes.BACKGROUNDIn 2008, a dam at a coal ash storageimpoundment operated by the TennesseeValley Authority failed, resulting in a significantspill. Although the problem was the integrityof the dam and although only some coal ash isstored in impoundments (some of it is stored inlandfills and coal mines and much is beneficiallyreused), EPA is using this incident to justify itsregulation of coal ash. EPA is considering thishazardous waste designation action despitehaving issued final regulatory determinationsin 1993 and 2000 that concluded that CCRs donot represent hazardous waste.Under one of the two regulatory proposals thatEPA is considering, CCRs would be regulatedunder Subtitle C of the Resource Conservationand Recovery Act (RCRA), which is reservedfor hazardous waste. EPA is prohibited fromdeclaring CCRs to be hazardous until it“conduct[s] a detailed and comprehensivestudy and submit[s] a report” to Congress onthe “adverse effects on human health andthe environment, if any, of the disposal andutilization” of CCRs.Chairman Upton of the Energy and CommerceCommittee has rightfully raised questionsabout whether the Agency has the authorityto unilaterally reverse course on this issue,arguing that “to do so … would rendermeaningless the statutorily prescribedprocedures Congress specifically required EPAto follow in determining whether CCRs warrantregulation under RCRA Subtitle C.”EPA issued its proposed rule on June 21, 2010and held a series of public hearings in thelatter half of the year. More than 400,000comments were generated on the rule. EPAconcluded another public comment periodregarding a Notice of Data Availability issuedon data that is relevant to the rule, includingchemical constituent data from CCRs, currentstate regulatory programs, and the beneficialuses of coal ash. The comment period endedNovember 14, 2011.WHO IS AFFECTED?Classifying CCRs as hazardous waste willhave significant consequences on electricity
  2. 2. For more information and sources please visit www.RegulatoryTrainWreck.comEPA’SREGULATORYTRAINWRECK:STRATEGIESFORSTATELEGISLATORSgeneration and a robust recycling industry inthe United States. This translates into higherelectricity rates and less jobs in an alreadystruggling economy.Reclassification will risk stigmatizing thenumerous beneficial uses of CCRs, whichcontributes to more than $2 billion in economicactivity.In addition to threatening the CCRrecycling trade, regulating any aspect of coalash as hazardous waste could create enormouscompliance costs and force power plantretirements. A 2010 report by the CongressionalWestern Caucus states: the rule “would have theeffect of treating coal ash like nuclear waste andmake it nearly impossible to operate a powerplant with coal due to the costly requirementsthat would go along with such a designation.”Subtitle C compliance costs for electric utilitieswould be in the conservative range of atleast $55 billion to $77 billion. The EPA itselfestimates the average regulatory cost, for thenext 50 years, to be almost $1.5 billion a year.Other estimates have found that the price tagcould run up to $20 billion annually. BryanHannegan, Vice President of the environmentalsector for the Electric Power Research Institute,sees a risk that “250 to 350 coal units could beshut down, in an extreme scenario, and driveup the cost of electricity.”WHY IS THIS UNNECESSARY?In its own studies over the years, the EPA foundthat it was inappropriate to designate coal ashas a hazardous waste. By doing so now, andwithout the science or cost-benefit analysesto back up the change, the EPA is taking actionthat will cost billions of dollars and potentiallyreduce electricity reliability for no justifiablereason. If, as is stated in numerous governmentand private studies, coal ash does not havehigh levels of toxicity, then this rule will be allcost and no benefit.Groups including the U.S. Department ofEnergy, the Federal Highway Administration, theDepartment of Agriculture, the Electric PowerResearch Institute, a variety of state agencies,and the EPA itself have studied CCRs over thelast several decades, and all have found that thetoxicity levels in CCRs are far below criteria thatwould require a hazardous designation.In addition, the EPA stated in a 2005 studythat “the regulatory infrastructure is generallyin place at the state level to ensure adequatemanagement of these wastes” and that statesshould continue to be the principal regulatoryauthority for regulating CCRs as they arebest suited to develop and implement CCRregulatory programs tailored to specific climateand geological conditions designed to protecthuman health and the environment.TAKE ACTION•Introduce ALEC model legislation thataddresses the Coal Ash Rule:•Resolution opposing EPA’s RegulatoryTrain Wreck•State Regulatory Responsibility Act•Resolution to Retain State Authorityover Coal Ash as Non-Hazardous Waste•Write focused, joint letters to members ofCongress•Write an op-ed or pursue other pressopportunities highlighting the impact of thisregulation.For more information about the EPA’s Coal AshRule, contact Todd Wynn, Director of ALEC’sEnergy, Environment and Agriculture TaskForce, at 202.742.8542 or twynn@alec.orgREGULATION OF COAL COMBUSTION RESIDUES (CCRS)
  3. 3. For more information and sources please visit www.RegulatoryTrainWreck.comEPA’SREGULATORYTRAINWRECK:STRATEGIESFORSTATELEGISLATORSEPA regulation of coal combustion residues would supersede existing state regulatoryauthority, impose overly stringent federal regulations and threaten a growing and robustrecycling industry.The states that have coal fired utilities have been regulating and managing coal ash foryears without the need for a federal program.COAL COMBUSTION RESIDUES RECYCLEDRECYCLEDUNITS:SHORTTONS(MILLIONS)PERCENTAGERECYCLED1966-19701971-19751976-19801981-19851986-19901991-19951996-20002001-20052006-200975655545352515575%65%55%45%35%25%15%05%