EPA Announces Coal Ash Plan

May 13, 2010 Updated: May 13, 2010

For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) called for nationwide rules for the management and disposal of coal ash from coal fired power plants. If the ash is reused in solid materials it cannot spill or contaminate water with toxic heavy metals.

“The time has come for common sense national protections to ensure the safe disposal of coal ash,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

“We’re proposing strong steps to address the serious risk of groundwater contamination, and threats to drinking water, and we’re also putting in place stronger safeguards against structural failures of coal ash impoundments. The health and the environment of all communities must be protected.”

In 2008 a coal ash impoundment at a power plant broke open and spilled into Kingston, Tennessee, west of Knoxville. People were displaced, land and water were contaminated and millions of dollars in damage resulted.

To prevent such accidents, the EPA is proposing two ways of regulating coal ash. One relies on EPA performance standards enforced by citizen lawsuits. The other calls for federally enforceable national regulations. Coal ash reused in solid materials would be exempt from the regulations. The agency invites public comments for 90 days. To see the proposals please see http://www.epa.gov/coalashrule.