- In a rare sign of bipartisanship, Congress appears close to approving modifications to federal rules around the disposal of coal ash which industry representatives say would help address current uncertainties in the system, as reported by Environmental Leader.
- The new bill would give state agencies the authority to enforce existing federal regulations through permits. Right now these regulations aren't directly enforceable except through citizen suits.
- The House and Senate are currently negotiating over final terms of the modification and it is expected to pass as part of the Water Resources Development Act soon.
The EPA's 2014 rule classifying coal ash as solid waste rather than hazardous waste was seen as a good step toward giving utilities more disposal options at the time, but has left many questions about implementation. Industry representatives have also been looking to limit liability against potential citizen suits.
Coal plants produce an estimated 140 million tons of ash per year. While this contains toxic elements, the waste industry has seen many opportunities for safe disposal now that the material is no longer classified as hazardous. In addition to revenues from landfill tipping fees, companies have also found ways to recycle the ash into cement or other building materials.
Despite these opportunities, coal ash can also be environmentally detrimental when not managed properly as seen after major accidents at Duke Energy and the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston facility. Driven by these accidents and other factors some communities are still wary of hosting coal ash ponds or landfills.