The Environmental Protection Agency announces a crackdown on toxic coal ash from landfills


The Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday that the Biden administration is moving to close a loophole that exempted hundreds of inactive coal ash landfills from rules designed to prevent heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic from seeping into groundwater.

Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal in power plants, contains lead, lithium, and mercury. These metals can contaminate waterways and the drinking water supply They have been linked to health effects, including cancerBirth defects and developmental delays in children. It is also toxic to fish.

proposed regulation, part of the settlement Between the EPA and environmental groups, it would require those responsible for coal ash to monitor groundwater supplies and clean up any pollution from landfills.

said Michael S. Regan, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the rule would help protect low-income communities of people of color, and where The huge number of old landfills Located.

“Many of these communities have been disproportionately affected by pollution for far too long,” Reagan said in a statement.

Burning coal to generate electricity pollutes the air and releases greenhouse gases, but some of its most dangerous elements are found in ash stored in ponds or dry landfills. About half of the coal ash in the United States—more than 1 billion tons, according to one study—is not regulated.

The new rule is expected to face opposition from utilities and fossil fuel advocates in Congress, including Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-WV, who has personal financial ties to the coal industry.

The proposal follows the Biden administration’s move to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. That prompted Mr. Manchin, the largest recipient of oil and gas industry campaign contributions last year, to accuse the Biden administration of being “serious about doing everything it can to regulate coal and gas power plants out of existence.”

Wednesday’s proposed regulation would cover what the agency calls “old” coal ash landfills, not existing power plant operations.

said Lisa Evans, senior counsel for Earthjustice, an environmental group that led the lawsuit to force the Environmental Protection Agency to address unregulated landfills.

In 2008, a six-story-tall dam that impounded a huge pond of coal waste at a plant in Kingston, Tennessee, collapsed, releasing more than a billion gallons of ash and slurry into the surrounding community.

The Kingston coal ash spill remains one of the largest industrial disasters in US history and helped spur the first federal controls on coal ash disposal, implemented in 2015. The rules imposed strict inspection and monitoring requirements at coal plants and mandated that plants install technology to protect supplies. water from pollution.

However, landfills that stopped receiving ash before October 2015 are exempt from the rules.

The Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday that inactive landfills, which are not usually monitored, are likely to be unlined, making them vulnerable to leaks and structural problems.

In January, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed regulations that would force utilities to strengthen safeguards on toxic coal ash pollution from power plants — requirements that President Donald J. Trump’s administration has deferred. Under Mr. Trump, who has promised a coal industry back, the Environmental Protection Agency has sought to allow some leaking coal ash storage ponds to operate. And some pools are unlined to remain open indefinitely.

The proposed rule that was published Wednesday in the Federal RegisterIt is subject to a 60-day public comment period and is expected to be finalized by next spring.


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