Coal Tattoo


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 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.