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EPA Quietly Turns Its Back on Coal Ash Recycling

            While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continues to give lip service to its support of coal ash recycling, the agency has quietly suspended its participation in a key program that promotes the practice.

            Sometime earlier this week, EPA posted this announcement on the home page of its Coal Combustion Products Partnership (C2P2) program web site:

“On May 4th, 2010, EPA proposed the first-ever national rules to ensure the safe disposal and management of coal combustion residuals from coal-fired power plants. While EPA is engaged in the rulemaking process, the Agency has suspended active participation in the Coal Combustion Products Partnership. EPA continues to believe that beneficial use of coal combustion residuals, when performed properly and in a safe manner, is beneficial to the environment.”

            EPA took this action without notifying its “partners” in the C2P2 program. The Coal Combustion Products Partnership was created in 2003.  It is a cooperative effort between EPA and the American Coal Ash Association (ACAA), Utility Solid Waste Activities Group (USWAG), Department of Energy (DOE), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) to “promote the beneficial use of coal combustion products (CCPs) and the environmental benefits that result from their use.”

            In February, Citizens for Recycling First applied for membership in the C2P2 program.  EPA did not respond to its membership application.

            When EPA announced its rulemaking options on May 4, the agency’s assistant administrator said, “EPA supports the legitimate beneficial use of coal combustion residuals. Environmentally sound beneficial uses of ash conserve resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lessen the need for waste disposal units, and provide significant domestic economic benefits. This proposal will clearly differentiate these uses from coal ash disposal and assure that safe beneficial uses are not restricted and in fact are encouraged.”        

            By suspending its participation in the C2P2 program, however, EPA appears to be positioning itself to do nothing substantive to “encourage” coal ash recycling during the agency’s months- or years-long rulemaking process.

This action is the latest ironic twist in EPA’s response to the failure of a Tennessee coal ash disposal pond in 2008.  (See here for more examples of EPA irony: http://www.recyclingfirst.org/blog/?post=9) Senior EPA officials have publicly stated that they feel coal ash disposal is separate enough from coal ash recycling to allow the material to be labeled “hazardous” for disposal without harming recycling markets.  But apparently they are not separate enough to allow EPA to talk about regulating disposal while encouraging recycling at the same time.

            To access EPA’s C2P2 web site, click here: http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/partnerships/c2p2/index.htm


Posted by: on: May 28, 2010 @ 10:00