The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized an initial set of revisions governing coal ash disposal for utilities and power plant operators. Utilities and power plants will now be allowed to have more time to close coal ash ponds and landfills, and delay the monitoring of groundwater at facilities.
Closures: The EPA has extended a deadline for plants to close their coal ash disposal areas when they detect groundwater standards are being exceeded as the result of unlined surface impoundments or cannot comply with restrictions on where to store coal ash above the uppermost aquifer. The 18-month extension on the deadline now gives power plants until October 31, 2020 to close coal ash disposal areas that are in violation of groundwater contamination rules.
Groundwater: The EPA set two alternative performance standards for coal plant owners under the coal ash rule. The EPA or a state that has an EPA-approved coal ash permitting program can now suspend the groundwater monitoring requirement if there is no potential for pollutants to seep into the uppermost aquifer. EPA also now allows the EPA or states to issues technical certifications for coal plant owners instead of requiring technical engineers to issue these certifications.
The EPA claims that these two amendments will allow states to craft plant-specific coal ash disposal requirements based on the risks at a particular coal plant and could save the utility sector up to $31 million a year from these amendments, which were finalized in July 2018. The EPA anticipates proposing other changes to the coal ash rule later this year.
If you have any questions about how the above actions may impact your business, please contact Connell Foley’s Environmental Law Group.