EPA promotes cooperation with states to advance coal ash management

Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; CP staff

EPA is eyeing programs that allow flexibility in individual permits to manage the safe disposal of coal combustion residuals, known as CCR or “coal ash,” and expects that implementation guidance will allow for the safe disposal and continued beneficial use of the material, while enabling states to decide what works best for their environment.

“EPA continues to support the environmentally sound recycling of coal ash,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Through the authority granted by Congress in the WIIN Act, EPA is issuing this guidance to promote the swift submission and review of state permit programs, make state and federal management of coal ash more consistent, and place enforcement in the hands of state regulators—those who best know the needs of local communities.”

The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN) authorizes state permit programs to manage CCR. Congress authorizes states to operate permit programs, as long as the EPA determines that requirements are at least as protective as the federal standards. Legislation was necessary to better-facilitate implementation of EPA’s 2014 CCR Final Rule, which did not grant the agency or states the authority to directly regulate and permit safe coal ash disposal, making citizen lawsuits the primary enforcement mechanism for disposal of coal ash under the rule. In December 2016, Congress passed the WIIN Act, which included language giving state agencies the authority to implement and enforce coal ash under the 2014 CCR Final Rule through EPA-approved state permit programs.