"EPA Finally Takes On Abandoned Coal Ash Ponds — But It Might Be Too Late"

"Will utilities clean up toxic waste at power plants, or run out an election-year clock?"

"Last week, the EPA released a suite of long-awaited rules meant to cut down the carbon that the U.S. emits when generating electricity. The rules primarily target existing coal plants and new natural gas facilities, in many cases requiring dramatic emissions cuts that won’t be possible without an unprecedented deployment of carbon capture. (The new EPA proposals are part of an ongoing flurry of federal regulatory actions that must be issued by May 22 to minimize the possibility that they’ll be rolled back if Republican Donald Trump defeats President Joe Biden in November’s election.)

The EPA’s new power sector rules have been widely scrutinized for their potential impact on the country’s electric utilities, which have lately been drawing up plans to expand natural gas capacity in response to the growing electricity demand promised by new industrial facilities, AI-supporting data centers, and electric vehicle adoption. However, last week’s rules also contained substantial new controls on the pollution generated by the nation’s aging fleet of coal-fired power plants — as well as the toxins left behind by the many that have already shuttered — including a proposal that closes a longstanding loophole in federal regulations governing the cleanup of coal ash, a toxic waste byproduct of the coal-fired power process.

The new rule builds on a landmark 2015 rule prohibiting coal ash from being permanently stored in places where it comes into contact with groundwater. This was meant to reform the widespread practice of creating so-called coal ash ponds where the toxin is stored in a wet slurry. While at that time the EPA only applied the rule to coal plants in active use, the new rule will require the cleanup of hundreds of “legacy” coal ash ponds."

Gautama Mehta reports for Grist May 1, 2024.


"New EPA Rules Close A ‘Huge Loophole’ On Coal Ash, Forcing Wide-Scale Cleanup, Advocates Say" (Energy News Network)

Source: Grist, 05/07/2024