Frequent Questions about Location Restrictions and Implementing the Final Rule Regulating the Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR)
EPA developed a list of responses to the many questions the Agency received about implementing the 2015 final CCR disposal rule. Questions that fall under the category of location restrictions and their responses are below:
- When EPA proposed the application of location restrictions to existing surface impoundments, you acknowledged that these location restrictions would force a majority of the current impoundments to close. Do you have an estimate of how many will close?
- What sort of reliability issues could be imposed on the electric grid as a result of the CCR final rule?
When EPA proposed the application of location restrictions to existing surface impoundments, you acknowledged that these location restrictions would force a majority of the current impoundments to close. Do you have an estimate of how many will close?
The final CCR rule contains five location restrictions that apply to new CCR units and selectively to existing CCR units. These restrictions include: (1) disposal within five feet of the uppermost aquifer; (2) disposal in wetlands; (3) disposal in unstable areas, including karst areas; (4) disposal near active fault zones; and (5) disposal in seismic impact zones. In addition, the current subtitle D regulation (title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations section 257.3-1) that applied to these units before the final rule was issued already restricts facilities that dispose of wastes in floodplains. For fault areas, seismic impact zones, and unstable areas (using karst areas as a proxy) the EPA's Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) projected that 51 of the 1045 waste management units would be subject to the location restrictions resulting in an estimated 26 waste management units closing and safely relocating off-site. The remaining waste management units are expected to make certifications either that they are not subject to these three location restrictions or that their continued operation in these areas is protective.
EPA did not have sufficient data to evaluate the number of waste management units subject to the restrictions against disposal units located within five feet of the uppermost aquifer or in wetlands. However, in contrast to the proposed rule, the final rule allows owners or operators to certify that a waste management unit meets an alternate performance standard, even if it cannot meet the requirement in the proposed rule to demonstrate that it is five feet above the water table. Similarly, EPA notes that under the wetlands criterion, owners or operators have the option of purchasing offsets instead of closing existing units. Both the depth to groundwater and wetland location standards offer protective workable alternatives that facilities will have the option to consider. For these reasons, EPA does not believe that many (if any) facilities will close their waste management units in response to the location restrictions.
What sort of reliability issues could be imposed on the electric grid as a result of the CCR final rule?
Electricity market impacts presented in Appendix X of EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) were conducted using the Integrated Planning Model (IPM) and include the location restriction costs of the rule as discussed above. The results of this analysis show that there will be a negligible impact to the electric market.
Do you want to read all of the 2015 final rule implementation questions at once? Check out the complete list in PDF format.
Amendments to the 2015 final rule have been finalized that may affect these frequent questions. Additionally, these frequent questions have not been updated since Congress passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act that paves the way for state coal ash permit programs. Please refer to the following rulemakings and the WIIN Act for more information:
- Extension of Compliance Deadlines and Response to Partial Vacatur
- Amendments to the National Minimum Criteria Finalized in 2018 (Phase One, Part One)
- Final Rule - A Holistic Approach to Closure Part A: Deadline to Initiate Closure and Enhancing Public Access to Information
- Final Rule - A Holistic Approach to Closure Part B: Alternate Liner Demonstration
- State CCR permit programs and the WIIN Act