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EPA Issues Guidance on State Coal Ash Management Permit Programs

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WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an interim final guidance to help states develop and submit permit programs for the safe management of coal combustion residuals (CCR), commonly known as coal ash, to EPA for review and approval. The current version of the guidance describes EPA’s statutory  interpretations and the way in which EPA generally intends to review State programs.  As such, EPA encourages States to consult this interim final guidance as they develop and submit programs to EPA for review and approval.

“As part of EPA’s ongoing commitment to cooperative federalism, we continue to consult with our state partners to find the best management strategy for the safe disposal of coal ash in each of their states,” said Administrator Scott Pruitt. “We intend for this new guidance to help states by making the permit program approval process easier to navigate.” 

“EPA's action today makes the CCR authority application process clear and will put more states on track to obtain CCR authority efficiently,” said Executive Director and General Counsel of the Environmental Council of the States Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Esq. “With CCR authority at the state level, communities will have increased access to information about CCR management activities, and regulated facilities will have robust and streamlined compliance requirements.”

In April 2015, EPA published a final rule regulating the management and disposal of CCR as nonhazardous waste from certain coal-fired power plants under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  Unlike other environmental laws that are implemented through EPA-approved state permit programs, RCRA generally does not provide for regulation of nonhazardous wastes such as CCR through permit programs, meaning the requirements of the CCR rule apply directly to regulated facilities and are enforceable through citizen suits.  

Section 2301 of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which was enacted into law in December 2016, gives states the opportunity to act as the primary regulatory and enforcement authority over coal ash through the establishment of EPA-approved state permit programs. Under the WIIN Act, approved state permit programs must be as protective as the federal coal ash regulations, but state programs may provide flexibilities for facilities managing coal ash in their states. Implementing this new law is a high priority for EPA and earlier this year, Administrator Pruitt communicated with each of the governors encouraging them to develop a program and to work with EPA.
The interim final guidance released today addresses numerous questions EPA received about the provisions of the WIIN Act, establishes a framework to guide EPA’s approval process and provides checklists to aid states as they are considering and developing their program submittals. EPA will accept public comments on the interim final guidance for 30 days following its publication in the Federal Register.  EPA may update the guidance based on experience implementing the WIIN Act and comments received from the public.

To view a pre-publication version of the guidance and to learn how to submit comments, please visit

Updated: 3:29pm 8/10/2017