Partial Reprint of EPA Press Release
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized several changes to the regulations for coal combustion residuals on July 29, 2020. Known as CCR or coal ash, the regulations implement the court’s vacatur of certain closure requirements as well as adding provisions that enhance the public’s access to information about the management of coal ash at electric utilities.
The final rule specifies that all unlined surface impoundments are required to retrofit or close, not just those that have detected groundwater contamination above regulatory levels.
The rule also changes the classification of compacted-soil lined or “clay-lined” surface impoundments from “lined” to “unlined,” which means that formerly defined clay-lined surface impoundments are no longer considered lined surface impoundments and need to be retrofitted or closed.
Additionally, the rule establishes a revised date, April 11, 2021, by which unlined surface impoundments and units that failed the aquifer location restriction must cease receiving waste and initiate closure or retrofit. EPA determined this new feasible date after a thorough review of the construction timeline information submitted during the public comment period.
The regulations in place to detect, assess, and remediate impacts on groundwater from CCR in surface impoundments and landfills remain in place and implementation continues on schedule. The 2015 requirements for facility inspection, monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements are unchanged except for [website and reporting} enhancements [for] public access to information.
EPA is also finalizing revisions to the alternative closure provisions that would grant certain facilities additional time to develop alternative capacity to manage their waste streams (including additional waste – primarily non-CCR wastewater – generated at the facility) before they must stop receiving waste and initiate closure of their surface impoundments.
For a Fact Sheet visit the EPA website.
SCS periodically prepares Technical Bulletins to highlight items of interest to our clients and friends who have signed up to receive them. We also publish these on our website at https://www.scsengineers.com/publications/technical-bulletins/.
Our most recent Bulletin summarizes the 2020 USEPA Adds 172 PFAS Chemicals to EPCRA TRI Reporting Program. The new PFAS rule went into effect on June 22, 2020. However, the rule requires PFAS to be included in TRI reports submitted for all 2020 calendar year activity (i.e., January 1 through December 31). The deadline for submitting the 2020 TRI reports is July 1, 2021.
SCS Engineers will continue to post timely information, resources, and presentations to keep you well informed. These include additional guidance, industry reaction, and webinars for our clients.
Contact https://www.scsengineers.com for an Environmental Engineer near you.
Do you know how much oil you store in aboveground containers at your facilities? If you have more than 1,320 gallons at a facility, you may need an SPCC Plan. SPCC stands for Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure, and it is a federal rule (40 CFR 112 in the Federal Register) designed to prevent oil-based products from entering navigable waterways of the United States. But it’s about more than just compliance. It’s an important tool to help you limit your liability.
As a utility leader, your focus is to deliver electricity to your customers; however, facilities covered under the SPCC Rule are subject to inspections and potential enforcement actions if your practices are out of compliance.
The 1,320-gallon threshold isn’t the only requirement for an SPCC Plan. The SPCC Rule only counts oil storage containers with a capacity of 55 gallons or more. Many electric utility facilities will meet the oil storage threshold, including substations, storage yards, power plants, and operations and maintenance facilities.
Another criterion is that a facility must reasonably be expected to discharge oil into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines of the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) does not define what “reasonably be expected” means. Instead, the responsibility is on the facility owner or operator to determine the potential for discharge. In reality, it’s usually easy to think of a scenario where spilled oil could reach a waterway. Even if you think a spill would never reach the stream, what if there was a significant rain event that washed away spilled oil on the ground through a storm sewer? Often “reasonably be expected” is not challenged, and it’s best to err on the side of caution.
It’s time to prepare an SPCC Plan. The Plan summarizes your facility’s oil sources, identifies spill response coordinators, and outlines your spill prevention measures and spill response procedures. There are three options: 1) Prepare the Plan yourself; 2) Use a third-party provider to prepare your Plan; or 3) Have a licensed professional engineer (PE) prepare your Plan. The option you choose depends on how much oil you store at your facility and your working knowledge of the SPCC Rule.
If your facility has less than 10,000 gallons of oil and no single aboveground oil storage container with a capacity greater than 5,000 U.S. gallons, you may prepare your own SPCC Plan, following the USEPA’s Tier I qualified facility template.
You can download the USEPA’s Tier I qualified facility template here: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-05/documents/tier1template.pdf. It is the cheapest way to comply with the SPCC Rule. You need to be familiar with the SPCC Rule’s requirements to complete a self-certified plan. You must also follow all of the requirements without deviation.
If your facility has less than 10,000 gallons of oil and a single aboveground oil storage container with a capacity greater than 5,000 U.S. gallons, you qualify under the USEPA’s Tier II qualified facility category. The USEPA does not provide a plan template for a Tier II qualified facility. You can still prepare the Plan yourself, or you may hire a third party or PE to prepare the Plan for you. If you prepare the Plan yourself, you must still follow all of the requirements precisely without deviating from them.
If your facility has greater than 10,000 gallons of oil storage, you must have a licensed PE prepare and certify your facility’s SPCC Plan. The Rule allows PEs the flexibility to deviate from certain requirements, so you may decide you want a PE to prepare and certify your plan for your Tier I or Tier II qualified facility.
An SPCC Plan is about more than just compliance. An SPCC Plan contains important information that will be critical if you have an oil spill. The Plan contains inspection forms and protocols that help you maintain your oil sources and prevent a spill from happening in the first place. It identifies the single point of contact, an “SPCC Coordinator” for the facility. If there is a spill, the Plan contains steps to contain and control the spill initially, and the proper contacts to notify internally and externally.
The SPCC Rule requires oil-handling personnel to receive annual training to respond to spills in their work areas properly, and the SPCC Plan contains the material that must be covered in training. The SPCC Plan also contains forms for you to document training, plan reviews and updates, and spill notifications.
Work with your staff to determine if the SPCC Rule applies to you. An SPCC Plan is a required document for certain facilities to help you comply with the SPCC Rule and gain the benefits of having a plan in place. But more than that, it’s a practical document designed to assist with training and inspections while serving the function to help prevent spills from occurring. And if spills do occur, an SPCC Plan provides the guidance to help control the spill and limit your liability.
Read Part II – Are You Ready to Respond to an Industrial Spill?
About the Author: Jared Omernik has 12 years of experience helping electric utilities comply with environmental regulations, including helping utility owners and operators build and review SPCC Plans and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs).
Visit SCS Engineers’ booth and meet our professionals at the Municipal Electric Utilities of Wisconsin’s Electric Operations Conference & Expo, January 15-17, 2020, at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells.
The conference, formerly known as the Joint Superintendents Conference, brings together nearly 200 utility professionals to network and learn ab out the latest trends in the electric utility industry.
The annual gathering also includes the Wisconsin Utility Suppliers Association (WUSA) trade show, featuring the utility industry’s most vital manufacturers and suppliers to showcase the latest products, materials and technologies. See more than 15,000 square feet of exhibits and 60+ manufacturers and suppliers of the latest and most in-demand products and services.
Make plans now to join us for an exciting few days in January, including the Apprentice Graduation Banquet and a welcome cocktail hour hosted by WUSA on Wednesday evening. Registration for the 2020 Electric Operations Conference and Expo is now open; the deadline to register is Friday, Jan. 10, 2020.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this year proposed changes to the federal coal ash rule, saying it would eliminate requirements for onsite dry storage of coal ash, along with limiting environmental protections on large fill projects, except for those with what the agency calls “geologic vulnerabilities.” Under the original version of the rule, companies with fill projects larger than 12,400 tons had to ensure that the ash did not impact the soil, air, and water around the sites.
The power generation industry has said those changes could allow coal ash to be more easily recycled, opening more pathways for what’s known as “beneficial use” of ash, which includes the use of ash in construction materials such as concrete and wallboard. Environmentalists have said the proposal would lead to more untracked and unregulated coal ash. The EPA has been working with the utility industry since March 2018 to streamline the 2015-enacted Coal Combustion Residual (CCR) rule, which was issued after years of debate in the wake of large coal ash spills in Tennessee and North Carolina. The rule establishes technical requirements for CCR landfills and surface impoundments under subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the nation’s primary law for regulating solid waste.
SCS Engineers closely follows developments relating to coal ash disposal, helping landfill operators, utilities, and others who deal with CCR meet the challenge of proper waste management as regulations evolve.
In addition to keeping up with rule changes, utilities are facing new challenges under the original CCR rules as time goes by, and CCR sites move through the regulatory timeline. Many utilities that began groundwater monitoring at CCR units under the rule in October 2017 and identified groundwater impacts are now entering the stage of remedy selection.
If groundwater monitoring shows that pollutants exceed groundwater protection standards (GWPS), then a response is required unless it can be shown that a source other than the CCR unit is responsible for the impacts, as documented in an Alternate Source Demonstration (ASD). The determination of what is best for a particular site is based on several factors and begins with what is known as an Assessment of Corrective Measures (ACM). The ACM is the first step in developing a long-term corrective action plan designed to address problems with pollutants in groundwater near areas of ash disposal. The ACM is pursuant to the EPA’s CCR rule.
“Obviously people are still looking at what things cost, but in our experience, working with utilities, the concern for the surrounding community and the environment is uppermost,” says Tom Karwoski, a vice president with SCS Engineers. Karwoski has 30 years of experience as a hydrogeologist and project manager, designing and managing investigations and remediations at existing and proposed landfills, as well as clean-ups of industrial, military, petroleum, and Superfund sites. Karwoski says his group has “no preconceived notions about what is best for all sites.”
Utilities working to satisfy requirements of the CCR rule have performed ACM and ASD projects, and several are moving into the “Remedy Selection” phase of the process. SCS Engineers is working with these utilities to determine the best remedies for CCR disposal, drawing on the company’s experience in providing solutions across the spectrum of waste management. SCS designs solutions for municipal solid waste (MSW)—in effect, trash and garbage, or what the EPA calls “everyday items such as product packaging, yard trimmings, furniture, clothing, bottles and cans, food, newspapers, appliances, electronics and batteries”—and also develops management programs for electric utility (EU) waste, such as CCR, which is far different in terms of scope and pollutants.
Eric Nelson, a vice president with SCS Engineers, one of the company’s national experts for electric utilities, and an experienced engineer and hydrogeologist, knows the challenges of establishing a successful program for managing CCRs. “The CCR rule quite literally borrows language from MSW rules; word for word in some instances. The stark difference, in my view, is the varied participation by regulators. In general, the states have not picked up the ball to oversee the rule as EPA has suggested they do, which is no small burden. However, many states had existing CCR management rules or have since enacted their own rules adding layers of regulation.” The EPA in June of this year supported a Georgia plan for CCR disposal, with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler saying, “EPA encourages other states to follow Georgia’s lead and assume oversight of coal ash management within their borders. EPA is committed to working with the states as they establish coal ash programs tailored to their unique circumstances that are protective of human health and the environment.”
Said Nelson: “My understanding was that when similar rules were introduced for MSW sites, the owner, their consultant, and a regulator [state or EPA] worked through the remedy selection process. There is no real-time regulatory feedback in many cases with the requirements in the federal CCR rule.”
Nelson is familiar with the process of establishing a program to manage CCRs. “The groundwater monitoring and corrective action portion of the CCR rule allows for specific timeframes for establishing a monitoring system, obtaining background samples, identifying statistically significant increases [SSI] in groundwater concentrations, assessing alternative sources of those SSI, completing assessment monitoring, and then assessing corrective measures for groundwater impacts above groundwater protection standards,” he says. “Stacking all of those timeframes onto one another has us where we are today [sites recently completing ACMs and working on remedy selection]. We are about to repeat this same cycle, starting with identifying SSIs, with groundwater monitoring of inactive surface impoundments that were previously exempt from groundwater monitoring under [rule section] 257.100, an exemption removed with previous rule revisions.”
At the moment, remedies for CCR units that have not already undergone closure will include some form of source control. The most likely controls include closure-in-place, sometimes called cap-in-place, or closure-by-removal of coal ash. Closure-in-place involves dewatering the impoundment—or converting wet storage to dry storage—stabilizing the waste, and installing a cover system to prevent additional water or other material from entering the impoundment. Closure-by-removal involves dewatering and excavating the CCR, then transporting it to a lined landfill.
In addition to these source control and closure strategies, remedies for groundwater impacts from CCR units might also include approaches from two other categories of corrective measure – active restoration and plume containment. The options available and those appropriate will depend on many site-specific factors including the size of the source, the groundwater constituents and concentrations, and the receptors at risk.
These factors, more remedies, and the selection process will be discussed in more detail as this blog series continues.
Mr. Karwoski has 30 years of experience as a hydrogeologist and project manager. He has designed and managed investigations and remediations at landfills and for industrial, superfund, military, and energy firms.
Eric J. Nelson, PE, is a Vice President of SCS Engineers and one of our National Experts for Electric Utilities. He is an engineer and hydrogeologist with over 20 years of experience. His diverse experience includes solid waste landfill development, soil and groundwater remediation, and brownfield redevelopment. He is a Professional Engineer licensed in Wisconsin and Iowa.
Mark Huber is a Vice President and Director of SCS’s Upper Midwest Busines Unit. He is also one of our National Experts in Electric Utilities. Mark has nearly 25 years of consulting experience in civil and environmental engineering. His experience working on a variety of complex challenges for utilities allows him to quickly identify key issues and develop smart, practical solutions. He also has expertise in urban redevelopment projects with technical expertise in brownfield redevelopment, civil site design, and stormwater management.
… we will certainly work toward making a smoother, more resilient project experience for you. Here’s one reason why:
To anyone experienced with siting new utility infrastructure that environmental planning and permitting is often a complex undertaking. Shane Latimer’s article provides guidance to help smooth the process and keep your project on time and on budget.
Project permitting, especially for linear infrastructure, generally requires planning at federal, state, and local levels, often spanning multiple jurisdictions. Integrating all of the planning and permitting processes of each level, and each community, into a cohesive plan, is crucial in managing budgets and timelines and, most important, stakeholder expectations. Changing regulations or government agencies may further complicate the process, because they do not have specific permitting timeframes or their decisions are subject to legal challenges.
In his article, Shane discusses the current general environmental regulatory context, followed by an integrated approach to permitting we use, which consists of three main pillars:
Along the way, he shares the typical pitfalls that often befall project managers that may not be well-versed in environmental permitting. Lastly, Shane lists the top permitting issues that seem to be challenging practitioners most. These elements in your earliest project development may not allow you to foresee every problem, but it will certainly make for a smoother, more resilient project experience.
Here’s another reason, we are driven by client success!
About the Author: Dr. Shane Latimer, CSE, is an ecologist and an environmental planner with over 20 years’ experience in environmental assessment, planning and permitting. He specializes in SCS Engineer’s client projects that are often large, complex, or controversial, and involve a combination of land use, environmental permitting, and other constraints.
SCS periodically prepares technical bulletins to highlight items of interest to our clients and friends. These are published on our website. This SCS Technical Bulletin addresses: