Frequent Questions about the Proposed Amendments to the Regulations for the Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals
On this page:
- What does this proposed rule address?
- What changes are being proposed for the beneficial use definition?
- Why is EPA proposing to eliminate the numerical threshold?
- What changes are being proposed for the requirements applicable to piles?
- How would annual groundwater monitoring and correction action report requirements change under the Agency’s proposal?
- Why is EPA establishing an alternative risk-based groundwater protection standard for boron?
- What changes are being made to the publicly accessible CCR website requirements?
What does this proposed rule address?
In this action, the Agency is proposing to address two provisions of the final rule that were remanded back to EPA on August 21, 2018 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Specifically, EPA is proposing to revise the CCR beneficial use definition and the requirements applicable to piles of CCR. EPA also is proposing the following additional targeted changes to the 2015 CCR rule:
- revisions to the annual groundwater monitoring and corrective action report requirements,
- establishing an alternative risk-based groundwater protection standard for boron, and
- revisions to the publicly accessible CCR website requirements.
What changes are being proposed for the beneficial use definition?
For the revisions to the beneficial use definition, EPA is proposing to modify one of the criteria used to determine if coal ash is being beneficially used or would be considered disposal. Currently, when 12,400 tons or more of unencapsulated coal ash will be placed on the land and beneficially used in a non-roadway application, the user must perform an environmental demonstration. EPA is proposing to replace the 12,400-ton threshold that triggers an environmental demonstration with specific location-based criteria (e.g., placement in an unstable area, wetland, floodplain, fault area or seismic zone) derived from the existing requirements in the 2015 coal ash final rule.
Why is EPA proposing to eliminate the numerical threshold?
Given the numerous ways unencapsulated coal combustion residuals may be used and where they might be placed in the environment, the available data could not be used to define a single numerical-based threshold that would be appropriate to determine when an environmental demonstration is needed for all current and potential future unencapsulated uses. As such, EPA is exploring an alternative approach that is based on whether there are potential significant public health and environmental risks posed by the location conditions where the unencapsulated CCR will be placed, such as near water, wetlands and unstable areas.
What changes are being proposed for the requirements applicable to piles?
EPA has reconsidered its current approach of distinguishing between piles of CCR located on-site (at an electric utility or independent power producer site) and off-site (at a beneficial use site) and is proposing to replace it with a single regulatory mechanism applicable to all temporary placement of CCR on the land.
EPA considers that such placement is best characterized as “storage,” and is proposing a definition of a CCR storage pile and a requirement pursuant to the authority in section 1008(a)(3) to control releases. This single regulatory mechanism would address the potential environmental and human health issues associated with piles, regardless of whether a pile is on-site or off-site and whether the CCR is destined for disposal or beneficial use.
The Agency is also proposing to exempt accumulations of unencapsulated CCR in enclosed structures from the definition of a CCR storage pile. The same concerns about the potential for adverse effects to human health and the environment from CCR releases to air, surface water, groundwater and soil through fugitive dust emissions, storm water runoff and leaching, are not present when CCR is stored in enclosed structures.
How would annual groundwater monitoring and correction action report requirements change under the Agency’s proposal?
The Agency is proposing to add an upfront summary requirement for the Annual Groundwater Monitoring and Corrective Action Reports requiring owners and operators of CCR units to include the status of the groundwater monitoring and corrective action programs for each CCR unit. This new summary requirement includes the status of the unit with regard to groundwater monitoring and corrective action; that is, whether the unit is in detection monitoring, assessment monitoring or corrective action and the date that phase was initiated. If the unit has triggered corrective action, the summary also requires the phase of corrective action they are in: assessment of corrective measures, selection of remedy, implementation of the corrective action program, etc. and what, if any, corrective measures had begun in the previous year.
Why is EPA establishing an alternative risk-based groundwater protection standard for boron?
In a March 15, 2018 proposed rule, EPA proposed adding boron to the list of constituents in Appendix IV of title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 257 that triggers corrective action. Specifically, EPA is proposing to adopt 4,000 micrograms per liter (µg/L) as the groundwater protection standard for boron, which would be finalized only if boron is ultimately added to Appendix IV. This level was derived using the same methodology that EPA proposed to require states to use to establish alternative groundwater protection standards in the March 15, 2018 proposed rule, and that EPA ultimately used to develop alternative groundwater protection standards for other constituents in a July 30, 2018 final rule.
What changes are being made to the publicly accessible CCR website requirements?
EPA is proposing to amend the current CCR website requirements to clearly specify that facilities must ensure that all information required to be on each facility’s website is available to any member of the public, including through printing and downloading, without any requirement that the public wait to be “approved,” or provide personal information to access the website. The Agency is also proposing to amend the regulations to require that facilities notify EPA (by using the EPA CCR website’s “contact us” form) within 14 days of changing their CCR website address, to allow EPA to update the Agency’s website with the correct URL address.