Energy & Environment

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

Coal-fired power plant in Utah
Pieces of coal sit on the side of the road leading to PacifiCorp’s Hunter coal-fired power plant outside of Castle Dale, Utah on Nov. 14, 2019. The 1,577 Megawatt power plant opened in 1978 and is one of the largest coal-fired plants in the western United States.

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 Wheeler. 

“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.”

Tags Andrew Wheeler Coal coal ash
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