Coal Ash Rule Coming This April?

New EPA website says rules are on the way

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I know how crazy this sounds: I love spending time reading through arcane government filings in the Federal Register and on I’m fascinated by the volume of it all, and like a modern day miner panning for environmental gold, I sometimes unearth a juicy nugget of information. Today is one of those days.

Yesterday, the EPA sent out a press release about a new website they’ve created for bureaucratic nerds like me: This site is a "regulatory gateway," giving all sorts of information about current and pending federal regualtions. So, of course, I start searching various issues we work on: cement kilns (final rule due June 2010), power plants (regulating mercury emissions, proposal due March 2011). But the best nugget came when I searched "coal combustion waste."

You remember that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson had been saying since the huge coal ash spill in Tennessee in December 2008 that EPA was going to introduce the first-ever federal regulations for coal ash ponds by December 2009. But then, just days before the one-year anniversary of that tragedy, EPA announced they were not going to make their deadline and weren’t exactly sure when these regulations would come out.

In the meantime, we learned that lobbyists for polluters had met with White House and other government officials on the coal ash issue an unprecedented 36 times in the previous three months (or about once every three days). They continue to pressure EPA and others to back down on important public health and environmental safeguards against coal ash contamination.

So while digging through the new EPA website I found that the agency plans to issue the proposed coal ash rule in April 2010. It can’t come too soon. EPA reported last year that at 49 other coal ash dumps across the country, a similar Tennessee-like spill could occur at any moment.

 I only wish EPA had made some announcement about a regulatory time machine which would allow them to go back in time and propose coal ash rules years ago, so that we might have been able to prevent what happened in Tennessee. But that would just be crazy, right?

Jared was the head coach of Earthjustice's advocacy campaign team from 2004 to 2014.

Earthjustice’s Washington, D.C., office works at the federal level to prevent air and water pollution, combat climate change, and protect natural areas. We also work with communities in the Mid-Atlantic region and elsewhere to address severe local environmental health problems, including exposures to dangerous air contaminants in toxic hot spots, sewage backups and overflows, chemical disasters, and contamination of drinking water. The D.C. office has been in operation since 1978.