Citing groundwater safety concerns, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denied a request to allow one of the nation's largest coal-fired power plants to continue receiving coal ash in an unlined pond complex beyond a federal deadline.
The EPA's final determination, signed Nov. 18, requires the owners and operators of the 2,680-MW General James M. Gavin power plant in Ohio to cease placing coal ash and other waste streams in the pond complex within 135 days of the decision's publication in the Federal Register.
Under the EPA's Coal Combustion Residuals, or CCR, rule, coal-fired power plants were required to stop receiving coal ash in unlined storage ponds by April 11, 2021. The CCR rule, finalized in 2015, set the first-ever minimum federal standards for the safe handling and storage of coal ash produced by burning the fuel for electricity.
Coal ash contains a range of toxins, including mercury, arsenic and cobalt. A first-of-its-kind report released by environmental groups in 2019 found that more than 90% of coal plants covered by the CCR rule are polluting underlying groundwater.
In November 2020, the Gavin plant requested a deadline extension until May 4, 2023, to develop alternative CCR storage capacity. However, the EPA concluded on Nov. 18 that granting the request would place one of the unlined ash ponds at the Gavin facility in violation of the CCR rule.