In April 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule governing the control and management of coal combustion residuals (CCR) in surface impoundments used to treat those residuals. In general, CCR consists of materials that result from the combustion of coal at coal-fired electric utility plants. As part of its rule, EPA required operators to submit initial closure plans for impoundments and post them on a publicly available website in November 2016. Under the rule, these initial closure plans must contain information related to the method of closure, and are subject to change as operators gather additional information. Continue Reading District Court Dismisses First Ever CCR Rule Citizen Suit
Environmental groups are raising the stakes for power companies facing allegations of coal-ash liability. Power plants that burn coal to produce electricity also create byproducts in the process, known as “coal combustion residuals,” or CCRs. CCRs go by several names, but are commonly known as “coal ash.”
Historically, power companies have stored CCRs in settling ponds, also known as “coal-ash basins.” Coal-ash storage and disposal can lead to allegations of groundwater contamination and environmental contamination claims. Environmental groups have sought to require companies to pay for remediation of disposal sites and alleged groundwater contamination; address alleged natural resource damages; and conduct extensive monitoring and sampling of onsite and offsite sediments, groundwater, fish, and other wildlife.
Over the past several years, the EPA and states have wrestled with the highly controversial question of how to manage ash and other residual materials produced by the combustion of coal in coal-fired power plants. These so-called “coal combustion residuals” (“CCR”) have been traditionally managed in large man-made ponds at many power plant sites. While discharges from these impoundments directly to surface waters are regulated by permits issued under the Clean Water Act, the impoundments themselves have been regulated under state waste management programs. In 2015, EPA fundamentally changed the regulatory landscape for these facilities when it promulgated a federal rule setting national standards for design, operation and closure of CCR impoundments. EPA, Hazardous and Solid Waste Management System; Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities, 80 Fed. Reg. 21,302 (Apr. 17, 2015).