"More than a year after 1 billion or so gallons of water polluted by ash spilled from a coal-burning power plant in Tennessee, the Obama administration is struggling to decide whether to declare such waste 'hazardous.'
Slapping a hazardous label on coal ash and other coal byproducts would trigger the writing of a federal disposal standard to replace a patchwork of state regulations. The standard could outright ban wet storage ponds -- such as the one that ruptured in December 2008 in Kingston, Tenn. -- and require landfill liners, leak controls and groundwater monitoring at ash dumps.
The industry also fears that the hazardous designation would kill an ash-recycling enterprise that the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) says generates $5 billion to $10 billion a year in revenue for coal-burning utilities. In 2008, about 60 million tons -- 45 percent of the 136 million tons of coal-combustion ash that the industry generated -- were used to fill abandoned mines, make concrete and shore up eroding highway embankments, according to the American Coal Ash Association."
Patrick Reis reports for Greenwire January 13, 2010.