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Possible EPA Regulations on Coal Ash

Lindsey Hajduk

"Special" vs. "Solid" Waste

Coal ash is not currently subject to federal regulation, and state laws governing coal ash based on “solid” waste rules, which are usually weak or non-existent.

Now the EPA proposes two options to classify coal ash and also how to regulate it. We need strict controls the federal government can enforce. We need to enact the option under “Subtitle C” of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Here are the two options:

  • Option 1 - Subtitle C This is overwhelmingly more protective of human health and the environment. This would effectively regulate coal ash as “special” waste subject to hazardous management standards with the better storage, handling, transport, and disposal safeguards.
  • Option 2 - Subtitle D This continues lax “solid” waste regulations that do not set up uniform, federally enforceable standards. We would have the same patchwork of inadequate state regulations that failed us in the past.

“Subtitle C” is our best option for change.


FACT:  Based on EPA studies, the cancer risk from exposure to arsenic in coal ash disposal sites is 2000 times the acceptable level — 9 times worse than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day!

Both options have shortcomings because they can lead to major surface and groundwater contamination : 

  • We need definitions for “beneficial use” so coal ash cannot be re-used in dangerous ways 
  • We should not be allowed to fill old mines with coal ash. 
  • Beyond Coal


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