EPA could re-label hazard potential of coal fly ash

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CAMPBELL COUNTY—Nearly six months after citizens successfully lobbied County Commissioners to block a coal fly-ash dump site from operating here, environmental regulators have now signified the sooty byproducts may be non-hazardous.

Officials at Headwaters Inc., a top manager and marketer of Coal Combustion Products (CCPs), applauded a US Environmental Protection Agency action clarifying coal ash as a “non-hazardous” material. A consent decree inked by Headwaters and other parties to the Appalachian Voices v. Gina McCarthy lawsuit was delivered to the Washington D.C. US District Court on Jan. 29. The document calls on the EPA to submit a federal register regarding EPA’s proposed revision of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle D concerning coal combustion residuals.

“In either the legislative or regulatory approach, the prospect of an unwarranted and damaging ‘hazardous waste’ designation for coal ash is eliminated and uncertainty removed,” said CEO Kirk Benson. “Regulatory certainty will help us grow the beneficial use of coal ash — safely keeping the material out of disposal facilities, creating economic and environmental value.”

In 2012, Headwaters first sued the EPA to force a deadline for finalizing coal ash disposal regulations first proposed in 2010. The RCRA proposal created uncertainty on beneficial coal combustion products, the company said. The justices agreed, ordering EPA officials to propose a date for revision finalization.

The EPA is expected to rule on the hazards of coal fly ash later this year. Opponents of the dump cited its potential toxicity in attempts to ban it from locating here.