The EPA seeks comments on two proposed options for regulating residuals from coal-burning electric utilities while retaining the EPA-determined beneficial use exemption status of the residuals, which includes their approved use in blasting grit, paint, and other construction products, according to a proposed rule that the Environmental Protection Agency published in the June 21, 2010, Federal Register.
Beneficial use exemption status for coal residuals has already been in place for 17 years, and approved uses vary with the type of coal residual.
The coal residuals—fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag, and flue gas emission control wastes—are the subject of “Hazardous and Solid Waste Management System; Identification and Listing of Special Wastes; Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals [CCRs] From Electric Utilities,” which falls under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The EPA seeks comments on several aspects of its proposed rule, including the two options (“co-proposals”) for regulating CCRs: either as hazardous waste (Subtitle C of RCRA) or as solid waste (Subtitle D of RCRA).
While the proposed rule might raise issues in various industries because of CCRs, it is directed at coal-burning power utilities, with the primary purpose of preventing catastrophic spills of CCRs at those utilities. Such a spill, discussed at length in the preamble to the proposed rule, occurred when a retaining wall from an impoundment for storing fly ash failed at the Tennessee Valley Authority, resulting in damage to the environment. Requirements for the structural integrity of such impoundments at power utilities are therefore a key part of the proposed rule.
The EPA is also trying to address the broad spectrum of CCRs and beneficial use, and to incorporate risk assessment and leaching-potential research on CCRs. Some CCRs have been found to exhibit hazardous properties that could adversely affect the environment unless the CCRs are properly managed, according to the agency.
In addition, while seeking to retain the beneficial use exemption status of CCRs under Section 3001(b)(3)(A) of RCRA, EPA is clarifying this determination and considering potential refinements for certain beneficial uses.
Comments and Requests for Meetings
In May 2010, EPA made available on its website unofficial drafts of the proposed rule, subject to change, and the agency noted that the official rule would appear in the Federal Register, with public comments due 90 days after publication. To download the official proposed rule, go to http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-12286.pdf.
The deadline for public comment is September 20, 2010. The deadline for requesting a public meeting is July 21, 2010. Instructions for submitting comments and requests for public meetings are included in the proposed rule.