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Environmentalists and Industry Reject EPA's Defense of Coal Ash Rule

Date: July 20, 2016

Source: News Room

Nobody seems to be happy with EPA's defense of its first-time rule for coal ash disposal. Environmentalists, the power industry and coal ash reuse groups are asking a federal appeals court to reject provisions of the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) rule that industry claims are too strict but that environmentalists counter are unlawfully permissive. Petitioners in consolidated US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit litigation over the rule, Utility Solid Waste Activities Group (USWAG), et al., v. EPA, filed competing briefs on July 14.

The ash rule sets technical and siting requirements for the material as a "solid waste" under subtitle D of RCRA, the option preferred by states, power companies and the ash reuse industry. Environmentalists argued for a subtitle C hazardous waste rule and said it would have led to stricter mandates, but industry maintains that both provisions of the law are equally protective of the environment and will prevent ash spills. EPA developed the rule in response to the massive coal ash spill from a Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) coal ash facility in December 2008 that contaminated nearby surface water.

Ironically, environmentalists are not challenging the subtitle D designation, rather, they claim EPA set a "double standard" by requiring new ash impoundments to include composite liners to prevent leaks while allowing existing sites without such liners to continue operating, a provision they call "unlawfully arbitrary." Meanwhile, industry groups say EPA has no authority under RCRA to regulate any disposal site that no longer receives new shipments of waste ash, even when located at an active power plant.

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