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EPA plans to reverse easing of coal ash regulations for power plants

July 27, 2021

S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on July 26 launched a new rulemaking effort to reverse Trump-era changes that eased coal ash regulations for coal-fired power plants.

At issue is an October 2020 final rule that saw the Trump EPA relax a 2015 regulation that requires coal plants, one of the largest sources of U.S. industrial waste, to use special membrane technology to treat coal ash pollution stored in adjacent ponds. The Trump EPA’s rule also weakened the Obama-era regulation’s nondischarge standard for bottom ash, which collects at the bottom of coal ash storage ponds.

In doing so, the Trump EPA estimated the changes would save 75 coal plants approximately $140 million in annual compliance costs while achieving a similar level of protection. But environmental groups argued the changes violated the Clean Water Act’s requirement that pollution discharge controls represent the “best available technology economically achievable.”

The October 2020 rule was one of many Trump-era regulations identified in a Jan. 20 executive order signed by President Joe Biden that directed federal agencies to review rules issued over the previous four years that may be harmful to human health and the environment.

In a July 26 notice of supplemental rulemaking, the EPA said its review found that membrane treatment systems “continue to rapidly advance as an effective option for treating a wide variety of industrial wastewater.”

[Zack Hale]

More: US EPA looks to reverse Trump-era coal ash rule changes

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