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EPA Issues Proposed Rule Tied to Disposal of Coal Ash

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on May 17 issued a proposed rule that would require the safe management of coal ash disposed of in areas that are currently unregulated at the federal level. This includes inactive power plants with surface impoundments that are no longer being used and historical coal ash disposal areas at power plants with regulated coal ash units.

Because this proposal applies to legacy contamination or inactive units that no longer support current power plant operations, it is not expected to affect current power plant operations, EPA said.

EPA is also proposing to establish groundwater monitoring, corrective action, closure, and post-closure care requirements for all coal combustion residuals management units -- regardless of how or when that CCR was placed -- at regulated CCR facilities.

EPA is also proposing several technical corrections to the existing regulations, such as correcting certain citations and harmonizing definitions.

A pre-publication version of the proposed rule is available.

Proposed Rule Responds to Appeals Court Opinion

The proposed rule is in response to the August 21, 2018, opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, et al v. EPA) that vacated and remanded the provision that exempted inactive impoundments at inactive facilities from the April 17, 2015 CCR rule.

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Thursday, May 18, with a 60-day public comment period, beginning May 18- July 17, 2023. There are two public hearings, one in-person on June 28 and a virtual hearing on July 12.

APPA’s initial review of the proposed rule is that it will have significant implications for the public power utilities, especially for CCR units that closed before the 2015 CCR became effective. APPA said it also has concerns about the proposed requirement to identify “CCR management units.”