Legal & Regulatory

Federal Court Orders EPA to Move on Coal Ash Regs

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., issued a formal order today giving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 60 days to set a deadline for issuing revised coal ash regulations, agreeing with a coalition of environmental groups that the agency has failed to timely complete its review process in accordance with provisions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Judge Reggie B. Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia had announced earlier this month that he would find in favor of the plaintiffs, a group of 11 organizations challenging the EPA’s delay in moving forward. The full written order issued today gives the EPA 60 days to come up with a schedule for issuing the revised rules.

The dispute stems from the EPA’s June 2010 alternate proposals for new coal ash rules under RCRA, which came in the wake of the December 2008 failure of a coal ash impoundment at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston coal-fired power plant in Tennessee. That incident released more than 5 million cubic yards of fly ash into the Emory River, inundating homes and requiring a massive cleanup effort.

One of the alternate rules would regulate coal ash as a “special” (but not necessarily hazardous) waste using a classification authorized under Subtitle C of RCRA. The other alternative would use Subtitle D of RCRA and classify the material as a solid, but not hazardous or special, waste. Today’s order only covers the Subtitle D revision process. The EPA had asked for another six months to complete its review, but the court felt 60 days was sufficient.

Thomas W. Overton, JD, gas technology editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine)

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