EPA backed off tougher coal-ash proposal amid industry complaints, White House review

May 7, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.


Word out today is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, reversed herself on proposed coal-ash regulations — backing off a tougher approach in the face of industry complaints and White House Office of Management and Budget scrutiny.

EPA posted on Regulations.gov in its docket on the coal-ash rulemaking a copy of its proposal showing the edits made after review by the folks at OMB. The key language that was removed from the original proposal?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or Agency) is proposing to revise its 1993 and 2000 Bevill Regulatory Determinations regarding residuals generated from the combustion of coal at electric utilities and independent power producers, and to list such coal combustion residuals (CCRs) as hazardous wastes under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), when these materials are destined for disposal.

Instead of that actual regulatory proposal, EPA punted earlier this week by putting out an announcement seeking public comment on whether it should take this approach or the much weaker route of giving state’s primary authority over coal-ash disposal under RCRA Subtitle D.

As a Greenwire report, via The New York Times, explains, EPA says that Jackson simply changed her mind:

“After extensive discussions, the Administrator decided that both the [hazardous and nonhazardous] options merited consideration for addressing the formidable challenge of safely managing coal ash disposal,” EPA said in a statement.

But, the decision comes after an OMB review that includes 30 meetings with industry officials, compared to 12 meetings with environmental and public health advocates.

The Center for Progressive Reform, which is monitoring the activities of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and its controversial head, Cass Sunstein, commented:

… This ain’t your grandfather’s White House review, nor is it a process to make any President proud. Expertise is tossed aside, industry is given irresistible incentives to end-run agency rules, and accountability in the constitutional sense, through executive appointments, Senate confirmation, and the public spotlight, is perilously undermined.

4 Responses to “EPA backed off tougher coal-ash proposal amid industry complaints, White House review”

  1. clay ton says:

    re: EPA backed off tougher coal-ash proposal amid industry complaints..

    This article sheds light on how the mineral system works in our government and how the EPA or other federal organization might be inclined to ‘back off’, http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/after-oil-disasters-there-is-outrage-then-delay/1093377 it’s about how things work in our checks and balance system. Lobbyists pay the checks to politicians or action committees, etc. and regulators with political agendas bend regulations to benefit their benefactors or soon to be employer.

    In the best of possible worlds this would be a fine system but exploiting minerals is perilous and not in the best of possible situations. Putting human lives needlessly at risk, and gambling with irreversible environmental damage are no longer tolerable. We need to do better; transparency and unbiased oversight would be helpful. Maybe the energy companies will have to shave a little profit, but we all know the consumer will just pay in the end.

    Lets get real with our obligation to each other and the planet; we need clean water, and clean air for our species to exist. Mineral extraction that can potentially effect global populations should be performed at the highest standards and under some form of international oversight. For instance, the unabated release of methane from coal mines does not suit our 21st century climate scenario, nor does not installing emergency shut off controls on deep water oil rigs as witnessed with the April 20 BP Deepwater Horizon national catastrophe. We who love this planet are sickened at the thought of the damage.

    “People who have watched the revolving door between the Interior Department and the oil industry say it should come as no surprise that regulators are reluctant to take a strong stand. Gale Norton, Interior Secretary under President George W. Bush, became Shell’s general counsel. Randall Luthi, most recent director of MMS, is now president of the National Ocean Industries Association, whose mission is to secure a “favorable regulatory and economic environment for the companies that develop the nation’s valuable offshore energy resources.” And in 2008, a scathing report by the Interior Department’s inspector general uncovered a “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” at the MMS office in Denver involving staff and oil company employees….Though new administrators now head both Interior and MMS, Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said change is illusory at best.” http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/after-oil-disasters-there-is-outrage-then-delay/1093377

  2. Greenspace says:

    Both the Subtitle C and D proposals require the exact same liners, groundwater monitoring, remediation if monitoring identifies leakage. The big difference between the two is the added red tape that would accompany a hazardous designation, doubling the cost for implementation.

  3. Shelby says:

    We found a way to dispose of used nuke rods. without damaging the environment. Surely we can discover a means of storing coal ash waste. Let the Feds decide where & how to do it ; the states will undoubtably dump the waste in mine spoil sites, endangering our water supplies. This isnt going to be easy though,due to the volume.

  4. rhmooney3 says:

    Maybe this yucky stuff (formerly called hazardous waste) can be used to clean up oil spills in the Gulf so that the accidental oil will be dispersed to the bottom so that we will consider both yucky stuffs to be properly cleaned up.

    P.S. Texas takes all the sewage sludge from New York City so why can’t they take these yucky stuffs too?

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