RCRA Solid Waste Rules for Coal Ash Proposed

Posted on 5/24/2023 by Nick Waldron

US EPA proposed to establish regulatory requirements for coal combustion residuals (CCR), also known as “coal ash,” in inactive surface impoundments at inactive facilities (i.e., “legacy impoundments”). 

The agency is also proposing new measures for other CCR management units at regulated facilities regarding:

  • Groundwater monitoring,
  • Corrective action, and
  • Closure requirements and post-closure care requirements. 
Last, the rule makes technical corrections and clarifies details in the existing coal ash requirements. The solid waste management requirements EPA is revising are found in 40 CFR Part 257, Subpart D.

EPA will take public comments on the proposed rule until July 17, 2023. 

RCRA Solid Waste Rules for Coal Ash Proposed

What is Coal Ash?

Coal ash is a byproduct of coal burning in coal-fired power plants and is regulated due to its ability to pollute air and water. Coal ash contains mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and other contaminants. 

Per the American Coal Ash Association, more than 35 million tons of coal ash was beneficially used in 2021, mainly in concrete products and gypsum panels (EPA webpage: Coal Ash Reuse). Benefits of re-use include reduced cost of coal ash disposal, and reduced extraction of raw materials from the earth.

Why Did EPA Write a New CCR Rule?

In 2015, EPA established regulations for coal ash with a Final Rule, creating national minimum criteria for CCR landfills added responsibilities for coal-burning power plants.

The rule included an exemption for “legacy impoundments”—meaning inactive impoundments at inactive facilities. An industry group challenged the exemption in court, and in 2018 the exemption was vacated in Utility Solid Waste Activities, et. al.. v EPA. This decision required EPA to create new regulations to cover these no-longer-exempt impoundments. 



Tags: coal ash, RCRA

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