Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Utilities may try to sidestep EPA regulations using law that grants states control over coal-ash disposal

Coal ash at the Tennessee Valley Authority's
Gallatin Fossil Plant (Associated Press)
A 2016 law that granted states oversight authority over disposal of coal ash from power plants was meant to let them tailor disposal approaches to local conditions, but it may also serve as a way for states and industries to challenge Enivronmental Protection Agency regulations they find financially burdensome, Sean Reilly reports for Environment & Energy News.

The Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, an informal consortium of about 80 utility companies, cited the 2016 law, called the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, in a recent rulemaking petition asking EPA to reconsider or delay enforcing extensive regulations passed in 2015. "The rationale: Because states now have the leeway to craft their own coal ash permitting programs — conditioned on an EPA finding that those programs are at least as protective as the federal standards — they can tailor more flexible 'risk-based' provisions around conditions at individual sites," the petition said.

Environmental groups say the industry is trying to take advantage of the Trump administration's dislike for environmental regulations. They note the USWAG petition's allusion to recently adopted administration policies. "Those include an executive order intended in part to promote the use of fossil fuels and EPA's recent decision to postpone implementation of effluent limitations guidelines. The future of coal-fired power production is at risk, the petition warned, 'if there is no economical option for managing the residuals from its use,'" Reilly notes.

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