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EPA coal ash decision applauded

World Coal,

Headwaters Incorporated, the manager and marketer of Coal Combustion Products (CCPs), has applauded the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its decision on coal ash. The decision will lead to regulatory certainty for coal ash as a ‘non-hazardous’ material.

A consent decree signed by Headwaters and other parties to the EPA lawsuit was delivered to the Federal DC District Court on 29th January. The decree states: "The EPA Administrator shall, by 19th December 2014, sign for publication in the Federal Register a notice taking final action regarding EPA’s proposed revision of RCRA Subtitle D regulations pertaining to coal combustion residuals."

Headwaters CEO, Kirk Benson, commented: “We are pleased that EPA is committing to finalise its proposed upgraded standards for coal ash disposal under Subtitle D, the non-hazardous waste section of RCRA. We will finally achieve regulatory certainty during 2014.”

Coal combustion products
In 2012, Headwaters sued EPA to force a deadline for finalising coal ash disposal regulations that were initially proposed in 2010 under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The proposed regulations created regulatory uncertainty, limiting the beneficial use of coal combustion products.

The District Court agreed with Headwaters and ordered EPA to propose a date by which it would finalise revised coal ash disposal rules. In the decree signed on the 29th January, the parties agreed to set the date at 19th December 2014, and also not to appeal the Court’s order.

Nonhazardous waste regulations
Benson added: “We have worked with the EPA for over five years and feel very comfortable with the settlement agreed to with Headwaters and the other plaintiffs. We previously reported that EPA said that alignment of new CCP impoundment water standards with proposed CCP disposal rules ‘could provide strong support for a conclusion that regulation of coal combustion products under RCRA Subtitle D would be adequate.’ It now appears almost certain that EPA will move forward with Subtitle D nonhazardous waste regulations.”

Congress still has the potential to amend RCRA and require states to enforce national Federal Subtitle D nonhazardous waste standards for coal ash disposal under state-issued permits. These legislatively required permits could improve the overall management of coal ash disposal if enacted.

“In either the legislative or the regulatory approach, the prospect of an unwarranted and damaging ‘hazardous waste’ designation for disposed coal ash is eliminated and the regulatory uncertainty removed. Regulatory certainty will help us grow the beneficial use of coal ash – safely keeping the material out of disposal facilities, creating economic and environmental value,” Benson concluded.

Adapted from press release by Katie Woodward

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