Friday, December 19, 2014

Electric utilities anxiously awaiting EPA coal ash disposal regulations; rules are due today

With Environmental Protection Agency coal ash disposal rules expected to be released today, "electric utilities are bracing on how they handle the millions of tons of waste ash produced by coal- fired power plants," Cassandra Sweet reports for The Wall Street Journal. "The regulations are aimed at coal ash stored as a slurry in about 700 earthen pits around the country" and could cost the power industry $587 million a year.

EPA "said it wants to ensure that toxic chemicals contained in the ash, including mercury, cadmium and arsenic, won’t leak and contaminate underground drinking water," Sweet writes. "It has identified 50 ponds where it says dam failures or other accidents could cause death as well as damage to property and the environment."

An EPA spokesperson said on Thursday that the rules aim to “protect communities from impoundment failures that pose costly risks to our health and our economy and to prevent groundwater contamination and harmful air emissions,” Sweet writes.

The rules "would replace or complement the current patchwork of state regulations," Sweet writes. "The agency may require companies to shut some or all of their coal-ash ponds and switch to storing ash in dry landfills, industry experts say. The rules are likely to require utilities to use the most up-to-date technology available in their ash ponds and landfills and to test the soil for leaking chemicals, said Christi Tezak, an analyst with Clearview Energy Partners LLC in Washington." (Read more)

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