EPA proposes additional rollback to Obama-era coal ash regulation

EPA proposes additional rollback to Obama-era coal ash regulation
© Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday announced a new proposed rollback to an Obama-era regulation dealing with waste from coal-fired power plants known as coal ash.

The proposed changes are the Trump administration's second set of changes to protections on waste laden with arsenic. 

The EPA's proposal would ease regulations for the liners that coat the bottom of coal ash pits in order to stop the cancer-linked substance from leaking into groundwater. It would also in some cases allow the use of coal ash in closing landfills.

ADVERTISEMENT

“These common-sense changes will provide the flexibilities owners and operators need to determine the most appropriate way to manage [coal ash] and the closure of units based on site-specific conditions,” EPA administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerEPA ordered to reconsider New York efforts to tame downwind pollution OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten smog standards amid pressure from green groups | Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects| Russian mining giant reports another fuel spill in Arctic EPA declines to tighten smog standards amid pressure from green groups MORE said in a statement. 

Environmentalists, however, said that the changes would weaken environmental protections. 

“The draft rule is a gift to the coal utility industry while endangering the health of people around the country and the environment,” Lisa Evans, senior attorney for Earthjustice, said in a statement. 

“Coal plants are the number one source of toxic pollution in the nation’s waterways, and coal ash has contaminated groundwater at nearly every power plant site in the country,” Evans added. 

She also said she believes that the rule changes are “contrary” to a court order requiring the EPA to strengthen protections from coal ash. 

Coal ash is used in a variety of ways, largely as a replacement for soil. It can be used to create level ground for construction projects or sprinkled over landfills as a protective cover. 

The Trump administration has previously proposed eliminating restrictions that restricted coal ash use to 12,400 tons per site.