The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed to significantly weaken requirements for the disposal of coal combustion residuals from coal-fired power plants. We submitted comments focusing on inadequacies in EPA’s assessment of the rule’s costs and benefits.
Coal combustion residuals, commonly known as coal ash, are the residual substances that remain after burning coal. They contain several chemicals that are toxic to human health, including arsenic, boron, lead, and mercury. EPA is proposing to change coal ash regulations from a prior 2015 rule, specifically by removing the requirement for large coal ash placements to evaluate health and environmental risks and by regulating on-site coal ash piles under a new category subject to less stringent conditions. The agency, however, fails to provide a reasoned explanation for loosening the regulations and, furthermore, does not consider the forgone benefits of reduced monitoring for negative health and environmental impacts. Our comments criticize EPA’s incomplete and faulty analyses of weakening the requirements. We also encourage the agency to evaluate reasonable regulatory alternatives, such as banning the placement of coal ash at sensitive locations, requiring all placements to evaluate health and environmental risks, and requiring all such evaluations to be publicly accessible online.