The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first-ever national rules to ensure the safe disposal and management of coal ash from coal-fired power plants. As part of the press release announcing the proposal, the EPA recognized that large quantities of coal ash are used these days in concrete, cement and other contained applications that should not involve any exposure by the public to unsafe contaminants. These applications would not be affected by the new rules.
The proposal calls for public comment on two approaches for addressing the risks of coal ash management under the nation’s primary law for regulating solid waste, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Under both approaches, the agency would leave in place the Bevill exemption for beneficial uses of coal ash under which coal combustion residuals are recycled as components of products instead of placed in impoundments or landfills.
“EPA supports the legitimate beneficial use of coal combustion residuals,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, the agency office that will be responsible for implementing the proposals, inthe news release.
“Environmentally sound beneficial uses of ash conserve resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lessen the need for waste disposal units and provide significant domestic economic benefits. This proposal will clearly differentiate these uses from coal ash disposal and assure that safe beneficial uses are not restricted and in fact are encouraged.”