Coal Ash Regulation

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Coal Ash |
Regulations and Alternatives|
Jonathan Hostettler|

Coal Combustion Residuals, often referred to as coal ash, are currently considered exempt wastes under an amendment to RCRA, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. They are residues from the combustion of coal in power plants and captured by pollution control technologies, like scrubbers. Potential environmental concerns from coal ash pertain to pollution from impoundment and landfills leaching into ground water and structural failures of impoundments, like that which occurred at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s plant in Kingston, Tennessee. The need for national management criteria was emphasized by the December 2008 spill of CCRs from a surface impoundment near Kingston, TN. The tragic spill flooded more than 300 acres of land with CCRs and flowed into the Emory and Clinch rivers. EPA is proposing to regulate for the first time coal ash to address the risks from the disposal of the wastes generated by electric utilities and independent power producers. EPA is considering two possible options for the management of coal ash for public comment. Both options fall under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Under the first proposal, EPA would list these residuals as special wastes subject to regulation under subtitle C of RCRA, when destined for disposal in landfills or surface impoundments. Under the second proposal, EPA would regulate coal ash under subtitle D of RCRA, the section for non-hazardous wastes. The Agency considers each proposal to have its advantages and disadvantages, and includes benefits which should be considered in the public comment period. (EPA, 2010 ) Fossil fuel combustion (FFC) wastes are the wastes produced from the burning of fossil fuels (i.e., coal, oil, natural gas). This includes all ash, slag, and particulates removed from flue gas. FFC wastes are categorized by EPA as a "special waste" and have been exempted from federal hazardous waste...
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