Five states raise alarms about EPA coal-fired power plant waste disposal proposal

Five states raise alarms about EPA coal-fired power plant waste disposal proposal
© Getty

Attorneys general from five states have raised objections to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rollback of Obama-era regulations that stipulate how coal-fired power plants dispose of waste containing arsenic, lead and mercury.

The lawyers representing Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, and Vermont expressed concerns about the proposed changes, which would weaken rules dealing with the residue from burning coal, called coal ash, in a Tuesday comment addressed to EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities | Rocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire | Trump order strips workplace protections from civil servants EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA may violate courts with new rule extending life of unlined coal ash ponds | Trump reverses course, approving assistance for California wildfires | Climate change, national security among topics for final Trump-Biden debate MORE

“When power plants burn coal, the resulting waste—coal combustion residuals, or coal ash—includes a host of toxic chemicals, such as arsenic, lead, and mercury,” they wrote. “These chemicals pose numerous dangers to human health, including cancer, cardiovascular effects, and neurological effects.”


Their comment acknowledged that states are free to impose stricter regulations than the federal government, but noted that waters within their borders are connected to out-of-state waters and could be tainted by pollution produced in those states. 

“Our states thus rely on federal regulation to ensure a stable nationwide regulatory floor protecting against pollution crossing our borders,” the attorneys general wrote. 

An EPA official told The Hill in an email that the agency “will consider all timely filed public comments as part of the rulemaking process.” 

The agency has previously defended the proposed changes as supporting “the Trump Administration’s commitment to responsible, reasonable regulations by taking a commonsense approach, which also protects public health and the environment.”