News Analysis

EPA Proposes Disposal Rules for Coal Ash

On May 4, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a draft proposal for regulating the widely anticipated use and disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCRs), including coal fly ash, which is widely used in construction materials. The proposal comes in the wake of a large spill from a coal-ash holding pond in Kingston, Tennessee, in 2008 (see “Coal Ash in Spill Could Not Have Been Used in Concrete,” EBN Dec. 2008). Coal ash contains mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and other harmful substances. EPA has proposed two options for better regulating coal ash; after a 90-day public comment period, the agency will decide which option to pursue, modify the specifics based on input, and finalize its rule.

Both options proposed by EPA would regulate coal ash under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the law that governs the use and disposal of solid waste. The first option would categorize coal ash as a “special waste” that could be disposed of only in permitted facilities built to specifications determined by EPA; these specifications would include special liners and other elements to prevent leakage. Facilities would be subject to federal and state regulation and enforcement. Under the second option, EPA would set performance standards for disposal facilities but would not have the authority to enforce them. Enforcement would come from lawsuits brought by citizens.

Although these specifications would be similar to those required for the disposal of hazardous waste, the proposed rule stops short of labeling coal ash as “hazardous.” This pleases Tom Pounds, CEO of the fly ash-brick manufacturer CalStar (see

Published June 1, 2010

Wendt, A. (2010, June 1). EPA Proposes Disposal Rules for Coal Ash. Retrieved from