Thursday, July 19, 2018

New EPA chief rolls back coal ash waste regulations

"As one of his first major acts as acting director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler signed and finalized new standards overseeing coal ash, the leftover waste created by power plants that burn coal. The new rules are a revision of 2015 regulations that were put into place by the Obama administration after two significant industrial coal ash spills," Nadia Kounang reports for CNN.

Under the new rules, which coal industry groups lobbied heavily for, states and the coal industry have more authority to regulate how they deal with waste. States can tailor disposal requirements to specific sites, for example. The EPA said more changes to the 2015 coal ash rules will be addressed later, Kounang reports.

Though some coal ash is recycled into construction materials, about 50 million tons of the 110 million tons generated in the U.S. each year must be disposed of. Power plants traditionally mixed the ash with water and put it in unlined pits, but it can contaminate drinking water. "According to the EPA, there are over 1,000 coal ash disposal sites across the country, many of them constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, well before any sort of regulations," Kounang reports.

Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist and attorney for Murray Energy, was the EPA's deputy administrator and gained the top post after Scott Pruitt resigned last week.

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