- After delaying a decision in February, the Kentucky state legislature's Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee agreed to pass proposed changes to coal ash rules on March 6, as reported by WKMS.
- These rules will shift the state's oversight of coal ash landfills and ponds to a permit-by-rule system, which means companies wouldn't need to receive approval before building the sites. Regulators or citizens could respond to any issues through lawsuits if problems were found after the fact.
- While this follows recent guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some say the proposed changes are too vague about the state's regulatory authority and would give coal companies too much leeway, as reported by WFPL.
Since the EPA finalized coal ash disposal rules in 2015 to classify the material as a solid waste, while also leaving authority to the states, figuring out specific plans has been arduous. Back in December it appeared that action from Congress intended to clarify these rules may have further complicated the process. The state could have chosen to implement the EPA's permit-by-rule system while also keeping existing coal ash landfill permitting requirements in place, but has since taken a different approach. A recent report from WFPL indicates that the state's decision may have been influenced by meetings with utility companies.
Opponents of the plan continue to argue that some level of oversight is needed in the permitting stage to ensure monitoring devices and other measures are in place to detect problems if they do arise. They say that issues at these ponds or landfills can sometimes go undetected and may not be noticed until it's too late. It will now be up to one more committee to review the proposed rule changes before they go to Governor Matt Bevin.
While not directly linked, this move to reduce oversight and perceived barriers for businesses is part of the Trump administration's new regulatory approach. Last month, the president signed legislation ending an Obama administration rule about coal waste entering waterways and further efforts to roll back regulation can be expected.