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Coal Ash group counters EPA’s sprawling definition of beneficial CCR use

Sources: American Coal Ash Association, Farmington Hills, Mich.; CP staff

American Coal Ash Association (ACAA) representatives are preparing to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s move to expand the definition of beneficial uses of coal combustion residuals (CCR) during an early-October public hearing in Washington, D.C.

"EPA proposals are the opposite of a regulatory roll-back," contends ACAA Executive Director Thomas Adams.  "Without any damage cases or scientific analysis to justify its actions, the agency is seeking to impose burdensome new restrictions that will cause millions more tons of material to be disposed rather than used in ways that safely conserve natural resources and energy."

Decades of EPA activities under both Democrat and Republican administrations—including Reports to Congress in 1988 and 1999; Regulatory Determinations in 1993 and 2000; and the 2015 Final Rule now under consideration for revision—all concluded that beneficial use should be exempt from regulation and encouraged to contribute to sustainability. The 2015 Final Rule issued under the Obama Administration "…found no data or other information to indicate that existing efforts of states, EPA, and other federal agencies had been inadequate to address the environmental issues associated with the beneficial use of CCR." The 2015 regulation established a definition of beneficial use intended to screen out large quantity, indiscriminate uses that might be disposal activities masquerading as beneficial use.

"The problem with EPA's beneficial use definition was that it contained a math error," Adams observes. "But instead of simply fixing the error, EPA is now proposing unjustified and sweeping changes to the definition that will have the effect of discouraging recycling. EPA is proposing to vastly expand the number of beneficial use activities that must be evaluated on a project by project basis and the record keeping that must accompany legitimate recycling activities. People won't do it. They'll just let the materials go to the landfill instead."

If EPA enacts it proposals, he predicts the United States will see more CCR disposed; more natural resources consumed; more water, fossil fuels, electricity, and other resources consumed as virgin natural resources are extracted; and, increased project costs. "Any environmental benefits to be achieved by erecting barriers to beneficial use are at best speculative and non-quantifiable and more likely, simply non-existent," Adams concludes.