Regulation of Coal Ash: The Ball’s In EPA’s Court For Now

Although it appeared initially as though Congress might be the first to move towards greater regulation of coal ash following the TVA spill, EPA has seized the initiative. Yesterday, Administrator Jackson announced a two-pronged initiative. First, EPA has issued information requests to facilities maintaining coal ash impoundments in order to gather information necessary to support new regulations. Second, she confirmed that EPA will indeed then promulgate regulations designed to prevent future spills.

In response to the Administrator’s announcement, Nick Rahall, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee withdrew his own coal ash regulation bill, H.R. 493, from mark-up.

EPA has not yet tipped its hand regarding the likely nature of such regulations, including whether coal ash would be handled as hazardous waste under RCRA or whether it would instead be handled as a solid waste.  Facilities operating coal-fired power plants have likely resigned themselves to increased regulation of coal ash, but could be expected to fight tooth and nail against efforts to regulate ash as a hazardous waste.  Such regulation would greatly increase management/disposal costs and would preclude many current reuses of coal ash.

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