Environment Update

May 17, 2010
Volume III, Number 1
A Federal Information Service of the NCSL Standing Committee on Environment
 


EPA Announces Regulatory Plans for Coal Ash 

On May 4, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first national regulations concerning the disposal and management of coal ash. Coal ash, also known as coal combustion residuals, are byproducts of coal fired power plants and are disposed of either in liquid form at surface impoundments or in solid form at landfills. Almost 900 nationwide, coal combustion impoundments and landfills are found in almost every state across the country and are mostly situated on the properties of power plants. Citing risk assessment and damage cases, the EPA has stated that without proper safeguards, the coal ash, which contains harmful chemicals such as mercury and arsenic, can eventually find its way to the water supply and endanger human health. The proposed regulations aim to ensure protective actions are taken at new landfills, such as the using liners and groundwater monitoring, to protect the water supply.

The proposed ruling asks for public comment on two approaches for addressing coal ash management under the primary law for regulating solid waste, the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act (RCRA). One option would create requirements for waste management and disposal that would be enforceable federally. The other option gives the EPA authority to set requirements and would be enforced principally through citizen suits. Both options are not intended to impact the exemption for the beneficial uses of coal ash. Beneficial uses include its utilization in wallboard, cement, concrete and other uses that do not pose threats of exposure to the public. In support of the beneficial use of coal ash, the EPA stated that doing so conserves resources, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, lessens the need for waste disposal units, and provides significant domestic economic benefits.

More information about the proposed regulation can be found at: www.epa.gov/coalashrule

 

Plans for Coal Ash

 On May 4, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first national regulations concerning the disposal and management of coal ash. Coal ash, also known as coal combustion residuals, are byproducts of coal fired power plants and are disposed of either in liquid form at surface impoundments or in solid form at landfills. Almost 900 nationwide, coal combustion impoundments and landfills are found in almost every state across the country and are mostly situated on the properties of power plants. Citing risk assessment and damage cases, the EPA has stated that without proper safeguards, the coal ash, which contains harmful chemicals such as mercury and arsenic, can eventually find its way to the water supply and endanger human health. The proposed regulations aim to ensure protective actions are taken at new landfills, such as the using liners and groundwater monitoring, to protect the water supply.

The proposed ruling asks for public comment on two approaches for addressing coal ash management under the primary law for regulating solid waste, the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act (RCRA). One option would create requirements for waste management and disposal that would be enforceable federally. The other option gives the EPA authority to set requirements and would be enforced principally through citizen suits. Both options are not intended to impact the exemption for the beneficial uses of coal ash. Beneficial uses include its utilization in wallboard, cement, concrete and other uses that do not pose threats of exposure to the public. In support of the beneficial use of coal ash, the EPA stated that doing so conserves resources, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, lessens the need for waste disposal units, and provides significant domestic economic benefits.

More information about the proposed regulation can be found at: www.epa.gov/coalashrule

 

EPA Proposes Regulations for Boilers and Solid Waste Incinerators

In an attempt to reduce the amount of mercury and other toxic emissions, the EPA has issued new proposals to cut pollutants from boilers, process heaters and solid waste incinerators by half.  EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stated that cuts to mercury and toxic emissions will benefit public health and the environment, will spur clean technology innovations and it will help to avoid billions of dollars in health costs.  The agency estimates that for every dollar spent on the proposed rules, five dollars will be saved in public health costs.

The proposals aim to cut mercury emissions by more than 50% and aims to drastically cut other pollutants from approximately 200,000 industrial boilers, process heaters and solid waste incinerators. Industrial boilers and process heaters account for the second largest source of mercury emissions in the United States. The EPA estimates that the actions would yield an estimated $18 billion to $44 billion worth of health benefits annually while costing $3.6 billion to implement.

The proposed rules require large boilers and all incinerators to meet the emission limits for mercury and other pollutants. The rules also require all facilities with boilers to conduct energy audits to find cost effective ways to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Smaller boilers, such as those used in schools, would not be required to follow the new rules but would have to perform tune-ups to the boilers every two years. The agency is also considering which non-hazardous secondary materials would be considered fuel, as such determination would identify which substances can be burned in boilers or if they must be burned in a solid waste incinerator. The EPA will take comment on the proposed rules for 45 days after they are published in the Federal Register.

 

EPA Advances Efforts to Replace Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR)

On April 26, the Environmental Protection Agency sent a proposed rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review that would replace the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR). The CAIR rule, which is an interstate emissions trading program for power plants aimed at addressing downwind air pollution, was struck down by federal appellate judges after the agency failed to adequately prove that upwind reductions would be sufficient to help the downwind states meet the required standards. The appellate court also found that the EPA improperly linked reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions to Title IV of the Clean Air Act, which was created to curb acid rain. 

The EPA plans to release the proposed rule in June but has not indicated when it will be finalized. The original Clean Air Interstate Rule applied to 28 Eastern States and the District of Columbia.

 

Bill to Reauthorize the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund

On May 10, Representative Waxman (Calif.), Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Representative Markey (Mass.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, introduced legislation that will reauthorize the drinking water state revolving fund which is a part of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The legislation, the Assistance, Quality and Affordability Act of 2010, would increase funding to the states and localities for safe drinking water programs and initiatives.

Chairman Markey stated that “This bill not only increases the amount of money available for critical drinking water infrastructure, it also modernizes the program, giving greater weight to projects that use green technology to improve energy or water efficiency and those that create water delivery back-up systems in order to avoid the sort of major emergency Boston and its suburbs just experienced.”  The bill sponsors indicated that this bill will encourage water systems to anticipate replacement and upgrades as the country’s water supply infrastructure ages.

More information on this measure can be found at the Energy and Commerce website:

http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2000:chairmen-waxman-markey-release-bill-reauthorizing-the-safe-drinking-water-act-state-revolving-fund&catid=122:media-advisories&Itemid=55

 

The American Power Act Unveiled May 12

Senators Kerry (Mass.) and Lieberman (Conn.) released the bill text to the energy and climate legislation they wrote, in conjunction with Senator Graham (S.C.), on May 12. The comprehensive 987 page bill has seven titles which address issues across the entire energy spectrum.

Title 1 focuses on domestic clean power generation, including the areas of nuclear power, carbon capture and sequestration, renewable energy and cleaner fuels in the transportation sector.

Title 2 addresses global warming pollution reduction and includes the highly publicized cap and trade program.

Title 3 concerns consumer protection programs and includes language for creating an Office of Consumer Advocacy within the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Title 4 contains language to retain and create jobs in the clean and renewable energy fields.

Title 5 concerns international climate activities and how they affect the United States in terms of national security, the economy and greenhouse gas reduction.

Title 6 states the policy of the federal government is to use all practicable means and measures to assist natural resources to adapt to climate change.

Title 7 contains the budgetary effects of the legislation.

More information regarding this act will be released in upcoming newsletters.

Link to The American Power Act: http://kerry.senate.gov/americanpoweract/pdf/APAbill.pdf