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Environmentalists Show True Colors on EPA’s Proposed Coal Ash Rules

            Anti-coal environmental activists devoted to declaring coal ash a “hazardous waste” show disdain for recycling in a recent analysis of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed approaches to regulating coal ash disposal.

            In an undated four-page summary of the EPA’s 563-page proposal, several environmental groups call for a “huge public outcry” for a hazardous waste designation.  The document contains contact information for Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, and the Sierra Club.  It also implies support from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Southern Environmental Law Center.

            On May 4, the EPA announced that it would release for public comment two different potential approaches for coal ash disposal regulation. One approach is under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act’s Subtitle D, in which the federal government establishes standards that are enforced by the states.  The other potential approach is under RCRA’s Subtitle C, which pertains to hazardous waste and is under the federal government’s direct enforcement authority. (The “proposed rule” document still had not been published in the Federal Register as of June 9, so the announced 90-day public comment period has not yet begun.)

            Neither option appears to go far enough to satisfy the environmental activists, however. “The Subtitle C proposal is an enormous improvement over the current lack of federal standards, but it is not perfect, and it shares many flaws with the Subtitle D proposal,” the analysis says. “For one, both proposals completely exempt so-called ‘beneficial uses’ from any regulation under RCRA.”

            Over the nearly 18 months since a coal ash disposal pond failure in Tennessee triggered EPA’s current activities, the environmental groups have said they are concerned with increasing regulation of ash disposal facilities.  Recent statements like this one, however, show an added antagonism toward recycling that is not backed up by any factual information or evidence of environmental concerns. Furthermore, these groups refuse to publish information regarding the environmental benefits of coal ash recycling methods that even they would consider “legitimate.”

            The environmental groups’ analysis admits that the non-hazardous Subtitle D approach “proposes many of the same safeguards that are contained in the Subtitle C option.”  Their reason for supporting the “hazardous” C option is that they want enforcement authority to rest with the federal government rather than the states.

            Curiously, the environmental groups’ analysis also admits that a Subtitle D “non-hazardous” regulatory option was added to EPA’s draft proposal because nearly everyone other than them opposes the Subtitle C “hazardous” approach. “It will take a tremendous collective effort to get the Subtitle C coal ash regulations that we desperately need,” the analysis says. “Industry, elected officials, and state and federal agencies voiced tremendous opposition to the Subtitle C proposal. Under pressure from OMB and the White House…and in response to adverse comments from other federal agencies, EPA added the Subtitle D proposal to its package.”

            In other words, an overwhelming number of scientists, engineers, actual users of recycled coal ash, other environmental regulators, and other federal agencies think the Subtitle C approach would be a horrendous mistake.  But somehow, they’re all wrong.

So the environmental groups have a plan that “…will require a nationwide grassroots effort and a huge public outcry to compel the Obama administration and EPA to move forward with the Subtitle C regulation. We must change the political dynamic in Washington…

Decision-makers need to hear from the tens of thousands of citizens across the country demanding common sense safeguards that can only be assured under a Subtitle C regulation.”

            In other words, get ready for more scare tactics from these environmental groups as they seek to drum up letters and post cards from well-meaning people. And expect more silence from them on the subject of safely recycling coal ash as a preferred alternative to disposing it.

Posted by: on: Jun 09, 2010 @ 04:30