On December 17, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency, established new rules regarding disposal of coal ash. In the future, coal ash will need to be disposed of in Subtitle D facilities. For landfills, coal ash management offers opportunities for management.
The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) is the leading industry voice working to ensure that members receive timely and accurate information on this issue. Association staff has been working extensively on coal ash—or as the industry calls it, coal combustion residues—and has gathered material into our Coal Ash Resources page.
While we plan to closely follow this issue and work with our members as implementation unfolds, current key takeaways from the new rules include:
- The EPA has ruled that coal ash should be disposed just as municipal solid waste is—potentially in an MSW landfill. However, existing coal ash disposal facilities do not need to be closed right away. The power plants can continue to operate their existing surface impoundments and landfills so long as they do not create adverse environmental impacts.
- About 60 million tons of coal ash were disposed in 2012—compared to 135 million tons of MSW.
- Coal-burning power plants are all around us and they all create ash. Check out our interactive map and you can see how close your facility is to one.
The association is exploring valuable opportunities for members stemming from this development. We believe this decision opens the door for the waste and recycling industry to be more involved in coal ash disposal—particularly with respect to landfills. Working within the industry as well as with utilities and regulators, the association hopes to make that opportunity a reality for our members. We are in the process of planning our efforts to facilitate the industry’s handling of this issue.
NWRA is planning a webinar on coal ash on March 25. In addition, we are exploring opportunities for holding a joint conference with utilities to discuss the handling of coal ash given the new EPA rules.
In addition, the Environmental Research and Education Foundation is holding an event called Beneficial Reuse of Coal Combustion Residuals on Feb. 24 in Charlotte, N.C. Discussions will include an update on the water repellency of coal ash, a presentation by Pedro Amaya of American Electric Power, and a tour of the UNCC labs researching the topic. The event is free, but registration is required because space is limited.
Sharon Kneiss is president and CEO of the National Waste & Recycling Association.