Coal ash rule heads to White House for final review

The nation’s first-ever regulations on the storage and disposal of coal ash have been sent to the White House for final review.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent its proposal on coal ash residues from coal-fired power plants used for electric generation to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Monday.

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This puts the rule in the final review stage, and should give the administration enough time to publish the rule by its court-ordered deadline of Dec. 19.

The regulations propose classifying coal ash as “special wastes” rather than “hazardous,” but that is subject to change pending the final rule.

The path to final regulations has been long for the administration. Law firm Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of 11 environmental and public health groups in 2013 to push the EPA to finalize the protections.

The court ruled in favor of the environmental groups, setting the December deadline.

“We are pleased that the White House has begun its review and hope they support real protections for public safety and health,” said Lisa Evans, an Earthjustice attorney.

“Despite massive coal ash spills, arsenic and lead contamination of our drinking water supplies, and over a thousand coal ash dumpsites threatening nearby communities, our household garbage is better regulated than this toxic waste. It’s time for polluters to protect nearby residents and for the White House and the EPA to regulate coal ash,” Evans added.

When the administration proposed coal ash regulation in 2011, the House voted to block the standards. Republicans argue the rules would hurt jobs and raise compliance costs for utilities and plant operators.