Proposed EPA Coal Ash Rule Drawing Heat from Industry

(Courier Press 2-20-2011) A House committee reviewing a laundry list of federal regulations that industry representatives deem excessive is taking a look at a proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule that could result in coal ash being declared a hazardous waste.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, operating under a new Republican majority, solicited input from business groups regarding regulations standing in the way of economic expansion. Of the 201 responses the panel received, at least 13 cited the EPA's attempt to control coal ash.
A report prepared by the committee staff was sympathetic to business concerns, maintaining that "substantial costs of handling coal ash as hazardous waste would be insurmountable for many power plants."
Coal ash is the residue created by coal-burning power plants. Issues related to its disposal first attracted national attention in 2008 when a coal-ash holding facility ruptured near Knoxville, Tenn., sending 5.4 million cubic yards of toxic sludge into a nearby river and countryside.
The EPA proposal carries potential consequences for the Gibson Generating Station in Princeton, Ind., operated by Duke Energy of Charlotte, N.C. The Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice last year found that coal ash from the Gibson plant was contaminating nearby water sources with high levels of arsenic, boron and selenium.
Gibson is one of the nation's largest, producing about 2 million tons of ash and scrubber waste every year. Coal ash pollution poses a serious health risk. People living near unlined coal ash ponds have a one in 50 risk of cancer — more than 2,000 times higher than the federal EPA considers acceptable.
The agency is in the process of developing the first-ever national rules to ensure the safe disposal and management of coal ash with an eye toward stronger oversight of the structural integrity of impoundments and protection of human health and the environment.
But business interests already are concerned with the potential impact of any new regulations. In a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the committee chairman, Robert E. Murray, chairman and president of Murray Energy Corp. of Alledonia, Ohio, said regulating coal ash under a method described by the EPA "would have many negative impacts for the coal industry, electric utility industry and a number of other industries leading to increased costs for energy and durable goods to consumers."
Labeling coal ash as a hazardous waste, Murray said, will render the substance "less attractive to the important recycling industry" where it is used for mine reclamation and subsidence control, soil additive, neutralizing acid mine drainage and road stabilization.
Issa's committee doesn't have the authority to repeal EPA regulations, especially those that are yet to be adopted. The purpose, he said, is to draw attention to a developing situation.
Duke is undertaking a project to keep its coal ash dry so it can be disposed of in a 377-acre state-of-the-art landfill with a synthetic lining over an additional layer of clay and sand to capture any liquid waste that might seep out. The transition will be complete by 2013.
To view the original article go to: