CCR – Disposal Regulation Revisions & Permitting Program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency moves forward on two matters that proposed to revise its 2015 solid waste regulations for the disposal of coal combustion residuals.
On February 19, 2020, EPA announced what it said is the last of planned actions to implement the Congressional mandates, respond to petitions, address the results of litigation, and apply lessons learned to ensure smoother implementation of the regulations. In a rulemaking entitled “A Holistic Approach to Closure Part B,” EPA proposed the following revisions:
One of the proposed options for allowing the use of CCR for closure activities would allow coal ash to be moved between units at the same facility and consolidated at impoundments that are scheduled for closure. The second option would allow utilities to beneficially use coal ash in disposal unit closure activities.
Under the proposed rule, utilities would need to submit an alternative liner demonstration within 13 months of the final rule, with the possibility of extensions. The EPA noted there would likely be few basins able to meet the alternative liner requirements.
The proposal would also allow utilities to continue disposing ash into some ponds even after the pond has been scheduled for closure. Ponds will still be able to take in ash if the ash remains under a certain volume — and this includes ponds located in unstable areas, such as in a seismic zone or within five feet of a waterway.
EPA will seek comment on this proposal during a 45-day public comment period that will commence when it is published in the Federal Register. EPA will also hold a virtual public hearing on the proposal on April 9, 2020.
On February 20, 2020, EPA’s previously announced proposed rule to establish a Federal CCR Permitting Program was published in the Federal Register. The creation of a federal permitting program for coal ash disposal regulations was required by Congress in the 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which shifted enforcement authority for EPA’s disposal standards from citizen lawsuits to state environmental regulators. The federal permit program is intended for use in states that do not seek EPA approval for their own programs and for use in Indian Country.
The proposed federal program includes electronic permitting and sets requirements for permit applications, content and modification, as well as procedural requirements.