EPA Proposes Allowing Unlined Coal Ash Ponds to Remain Open for Years

EPA has proposed extensions of a deadline requiring the closure of unlined coal ash ponds that would allow some ponds to remain in operation until as late as 2028.  Coal ash, the residue left after burning coal, can contain mercury, arsenic and other toxins. Coal ash is disposed in surface impoundments where it mixes with water, also known as "coal ash ponds," which can leak without proper lining. 

In July 2018 the EPA issued a rule requiring that unlined coal ash ponds stop receiving waste by October 31, 2020.  Following a legal challenge, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit remanded this deadline to the EPA for further consideration.  Today EPA proposes moving the deadline up to August 31, 2020.  However, the proposal would provide a three-month extension to November 30, 2020, for units that need a bit more time to complete the necessary measures.  The proposed rule would also set a deadline of October 15, 2023 for operators who can show a lack of capacity for finding an alternative for their coal ash streams.  Finally, the proposal would grant extensions to facilities that plan to shut down coal-fired burners by a certain date: to October 17, 2023 for coal ash ponds 40 acres or smaller, and to October 17, 2028 for coal ash ponds that are larger than 40 acres.  

Comments will be received for 60 days following publication of the proposal in the Federal Register.