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Proposed Rule for Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities; Federal CCR Permit Program

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Rule Summary

EPA is proposing a streamlined, efficient, federal permitting program for the disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCR) in surface impoundments and landfills, which will also include electronic permitting. EPA has used the lessons learned from many years of implementing hazardous waste and other permitting programs to design an efficient, federal CCR permitting process. This proposal includes requirements for federal CCR permit applications, content and modification, as well as procedural requirements. EPA would implement this permit program directly in Indian Country, as it does other Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) programs, and at CCR units located in states that have not submitted their own CCR permit program for approval.

EPA is extending the comment period on EPA’s proposal to establish a federal CCR permit program. The document announcing this proposal was published on February 20, 2020, and the public comment period was originally scheduled to end on April 20, 2020. In a notice published on April 14, 2020, EPA extended the comment period 30 days, through May 20, 2020. EPA extended the public comment period again for an additional 60 days, through July 19, 2020.

On July 24, 2020, EPA signed a notice to reopen the public comment period through August 7, 2020.

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Rule History

In April 2015, EPA finalized national regulations to provide a comprehensive set of requirements for the safe disposal of coal ash from coal-fired power plants. These regulations include technical standards that prevent the leaking of contaminants into groundwater, blowing of contaminants into the air as dust, and catastrophic failure of coal ash surface impoundments.  Additionally, the rule sets out inspection, monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements and makes transparency a cornerstone of the program by requiring facilities to post compliance data online on a facility-established, publicly available website.

In 2016, Congress recognized the essential role of the states in passage of the 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act which, among other changes, gave EPA the authority to the implement a permit program to require each unit containing CCR located in non-participating states to achieve compliance with the CCR disposal regulations. Non-participating states are those that do not have a state CCR permit program approved by EPA. The WIIN Act also provided states the authority to operate permit programs, provided EPA determines that the state’s requirements are as protective as the federal standards. Last year, EPA approved Oklahoma’s coal ash program and approved Georgia's coal ash program on December 16, 2019.

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