Oct 20, 2020

EPA Allows Some Hazardous Coal Ash Ponds to Stay Open Longer

The Trump administration will allow some coal ash storage ponds to stay in operation for more years.  

coal ash

The Trump administration will allow some leaking or otherwise dangerous coal ash storage ponds to stay in operation for years more. 

Additionally, some unlined ponds will stay open indefinitely under a rule change announced recently, reported AP News. The latest rollbacks will allow some coal plants to keep their storage ponds open for years longer than anticipated in the 2015 rule.

This weakens an Obama-era rule in which the EPA regulated the storage and disposal of toxic coal ash for the first time, including closing coal-ash dumping ponds that were unstable or contaminating groundwater.

According to EPA assistant administrator Peter Wright in a statement, the change is “important to power-producing utilities that Americans in a number of states rely on every day.”

Data released by utilities in March 2018, after the Obama administration required groundwater monitoring around coal ash storage sites, showed that widespread evidence of contamination at coal plants from Virginia to Alaska.

The 2015 rule required the most dangerous ponds to close by April 2019, reported AP News. 

This deadline has been repeatedly pushed back, however. The process for determining safety could keep ponds that were scheduled to close open for many years longer.

According to EPA estimates, all of the changes together are expected to save the industry between $41 million and $138 million per year

A 2018 order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit required the EPA to shut down all coal ash ponds that do not have a plastic liner, added AP News. The ruling said a 2015 Obama-era coal ash rule violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act dealing with hazardous waste in failing to require the closure of unlined surface impoundments.

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