Final Rule Alert: EPA Amends 2015 Coal Combustion Residuals Rule
New requirements added for coal-burning power plants in the 2015 CCR Rule included national minimum criteria for coal combustion residuals landfills and surface impoundments. The CCR Rule also introduced new limits on expansion of CCR disposal facilities and would have required closure or retro-fitting of certain landfills and surface impoundments that could not meet certain performance criteria.
The changes finalized in a rule signed by the Administrator represent “phase one” of EPA’s plan to reconsider and/or revise the 2015 CCR Rule. For a full review of what’s changing in the CCR rule, check out the pre-publication version here.
Here what you should know about “phase one” of EPA’s plans.
What’s in Phase One of EPA’s CCR Revisions?
- Add a provision which allows the Participating State Director to issue certifications in lieu of a professional engineer (PE).
- Add a provision which allows the Participating State Director to approve the suspension of groundwater monitoring in certain circumstances.
- Revise groundwater protection standards (GWPS) for four chemicals listed in Appendix IV of 40 CFR 257.
- Extend, in some cases, the deadline by which facilities must cease placing waste in CCR units closing for cause.
The 2015 Final Rule was not US EPA's first attempt to “clean up” the byproducts of coal-fired electricity generation. Between 1974 and 1982, US EPA created and revised effluent limitation guidelines for wastewaters from utilities. Since then, EPA has made great progress restricting air pollution emissions from steam-powered electric power generators.
Why Do Power Plants Discharge “Coal Ash” to the Water?
One major way power plants have "cleaned up" their air emissions over time is by filtering, or "scrubbing," to remove particulate matter like soot and ash, or toxic chemicals like sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury. The air emissions pass through a water-based filter system that "scrubs" the air, removing particulate matter from the air and resulting in cleaner air emissions.
The soot, ash, and other substances left behind in the scrubber water then must be discharged somehow. Put simply, to better protect the air, power plants were left to shift these pollutants to the water instead.
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