Thursday, March 12, 2009

Coal Combustion Waste To Be Regulated

The Obama administration will propose new regulations governing coal combustion waste by the end of this year. Congress is also working on legislation to prevent accidents like the release in December of more than a billion gallons of coal ash that smothered 300 acres in eastern Tennessee and contaminated nearby waterways, land and homes.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall is proposing legislation to regulate coal-ash impoundments under the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). Chairman Rahall’s legislation, Coal Ash Reclamation, Environment, and Safety Act of 2009, (HR 493), would require the Department of Interior to issue regulations that force coal-ash impoundments to meet standards “substantially similar” to those required for other coal-waste dams under SMCRA.

Coal ash impoundments are large holding ponds designed to contain coal compustion waste ash. Recent breaches at these ponds has brought pression for regulators, particularly the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), to regulate CCW and holding ponds. The EPA would regulate coal ash under ther Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA).

The Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston Fossil Plant spill last December was the largest coal fly ash release in U.S. history (see photo above). It has now prompted 125 environmental groups and some senators to seek federal standards for safe disposal of coal combustion waste, which currently has no federal standards. A letter dated March 2 from small and large groups was sent to Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson urging her to adopt standards as soon as possible. (NYTimes, 3/7/09,

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