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EPA Says No Coal Ash Rule in 2011

            Nearly four months after the close of its public comment period, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finally signaled when to expect final coal ash disposal regulations.  The answer: Not any time soon.

            Answering a question posed by a Congressman at a March 3 House appropriations subcommittee hearing, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the new regulations “would not be ready this calendar year.”  Administrator Jackson said the large number of public comments on the proposal – more than 450,000 – is the reason for the slow schedule.

            “Not ready this year” does not necessarily mean the rule will be finished in 2012, either.  Next year is an election year and EPA’s proposal to regulate coal ash as a “hazardous waste” is extremely unpopular.  For instance:

·         The public comment process that ended last November clearly revealed that the only groups in favor of a hazardous designation for coal ash are anti-coal environmental activists and a handful of companies that make products that compete with recycled coal ash. Everyone else favors strengthening disposal regulations without inflicting an unnecessary and damaging “hazardous” label on the resource. (See http://www.recyclingfirst.org/blog/?post=86)

·         All other federal agencies that have reviewed EPA’s proposed coal ash regulations also have serious concerns about the “hazardous waste” designation approach.  (See http://www.recyclingfirst.org/blog/?post=55)

·         Well over half of Members of Congress oppose the “hazardous waste” approach and the House of Representatives recently voted to block funding for any EPA rule that would result in a hazardous designation.  (See http://www.recyclingfirst.org/blog/?post=93)

EPA appears to be caught in a trap of its own making on the coal ash regulations.  The Agency appears unwilling to improve disposal regulations using a non-hazardous classification because anti-coal environmentalists are dead-set on obtaining a hazardous designation.  But the Agency can't move to a final rule using the hazardous designation because of the opposition from everyone else in the Western Hemisphere. Because the Agency has no legislative or judicial requirements to do anything with coal ash, the easiest thing for EPA at this point is to do nothing -- and use the 450,000+ comments as an excuse.

In the meantime, coal ash recyclers are left struggling with the enormous regulatory uncertainty that EPA has created.  And EPA still has done nothing about the coal ash disposal “problem” that it thought was so urgent when it launched its regulation-drafting exercise more than two years ago in January 2009.


Posted by: on: Mar 08, 2011 @ 12:33