EPA: Review continues on 450,000-plus coal ash disposal rule comments

Source: Environmental Protection Agency

EPA staff is poring over reams of responses submitted during the June–November 2010 public comment period for a proposed rule on coal ash disposal and handling. “The target date for release of a final rule will be determined, pending a full evaluation of all the information and comments received on the proposal,” the agency notes in mid-May update.

The majority of comments almost assuredly oppose the agency’s most drastic of two proposed rule options, whereby power plants’ landfill-bound coal combustion residuals (CCR), including concrete- or nonconcrete-grade fly ash, would be classified as “hazardous waste” under Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C. Handling and disposal of such CCR would be subject to EPA oversight.

A wide range of cement, concrete, construction, and utility stakeholders, coupled with local, state and federal government officials, have indicated how the Subtitle C designation would a) increase CCR disposal and regulatory compliance costs; and, b) greatly compromise prospects for recycling ASTM C618-grade ash in concrete, as agencies, specifiers and owners recoil at the notion of a purported “hazardous waste” embedded in concrete structures.

A second option in the EPA-proposed rule would see landfill-bound CCR fall under RCRA Subtitle D, averting a hazardous waste designation for recyclable and nonrecyclable CCR and deferring to state agencies on handling and disposal oversight. Some groups representing ash management and agency stakeholders have endorsed certain aspects of the proposed Subtitle D designation.

EPA provided the CCR rule update with an announcement on action plans 20 utility operators will effect for 70 coal ash impoundments. A massive failure one such facility in December 2008—at a Tennessee Valley Authority operation outside Nashville—spurred the EPA rule-making apparatus leading to the proposed regulations for storage, handling and disposal of all grades of CCR.