Despite Publicity, One of EPA’s Regulatory Approaches is Still “Hazardous”

            In announcing two potential regulatory “approaches” for coal ash disposal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was scrupulous about not using the word “hazardous.” But a “hazardous waste” designation is exactly what one of the approaches entails.

            Since the December 2008 failure of a coal ash disposal facility in Tennessee, the EPA has been considering actions it might take to strengthen coal ash disposal regulations. One of the options that surfaced early in EPA’s considerations was frequently referred to as a “hybrid” approach – utilizing hazardous waste regulation authority to regulate disposal, but leaving recycling (also called “beneficial use”) under another regulatory scheme.

            This hybrid approach rapidly attracted opposition from a wide array of agencies, elected officials, professional societies, coal ash users, and others. (See for copies of numerous letters opposed to a “hazardous waste” designation.) The opposition reasoned that the government can’t designate a material “hazardous” when its placed in a landfill but expect people to continue using the exact same material in their homes, schools, offices buildings, highways and more.

            On Tuesday, EPA formally announced that it is considering two regulatory approaches and asked for public comment on both of them. EPA’s news release and the web site the agency created to describe the approaches never use the words “hazardous” or “hybrid.” But that is exactly what the agency’s “Subtitle C” option is!

            Subtitle C is the section of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act pertaining to hazardous waste. The Bevill exemption refers to an act of Congress that placed coal ash outside RCRA regulation.  EPA’s “Subtitle C” option is the hybrid approach that has been discussed all along – regulating ash disposal under the hazardous section of the law while leaving recycling under the Bevill exemption where it is now.

            Not using the word “hazardous” in news releases does not change the fact that one of EPA’s regulatory approaches would create a hazardous stigma for the coal ash resource.

            To borrow an old cliché: If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.  People who support coal ash recycling and oppose an unwarranted, unnecessary hazardous stigma will have to speak up again during the upcoming public comment period.


Posted by: on: May 05, 2010 @ 01:47