Frequent Questions about Scope and Purpose and Implementing the Final Rule Regulating the Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR)
EPA developed a list of responses to the many questions the Agency received about implementing the 2015 final CCR disposal rule. Questions that fall under the category of scope and purpose and their responses are below:
The final rule discusses in depth the specific legal authority on which the EPA is relying to support the regulation of inactive CCR surface impoundments under subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). See volume 80 of the Federal Register (FR) pages 21342-21347.
- Is CCR from a closed fossil fuel power plant that is sent for off-site waste management covered by the rule?
Any disposal unit that receives CCR from an off-site electric utility or independent power producer, including from a closed fossil fuel power plant, is covered by the rule unless it is a municipal solid waste landfill. See title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) section 257.50(b).
- Is CCR generated at an active facility (i.e., part of the NAICS code 221112) but then sent for management at a facility no longer producing power regulated under the CCR rule?
CCR generated at an active facility but then sent off-site for management at a facility no longer producing power is regulated under the rule. The rule at 40 CFR section 257.50(b) specifies that "this subpart applies to owners and operators of new and existing landfills and surface impoundments, including lateral expansions of such units, that dispose or otherwise engage in solid waste management of CCR generated from the combustion of coal at electric utilities and independent power producers." Even though the facility that owns the disposal unit may no longer be producing power, it owns and/or is operating an off-site CCR disposal unit. 40 CFR section 257.50(b) expressly clarifies that the requirements also apply to CCR disposal units located off-site of the electric utility or independent power producer.
- If an inactive utility begins to generate electricity by starting up a natural gas peaker plant that is located on-site, will the on-site CCR surface impoundments containing fly ash from previous coal-burning activities become subject to the rule?
Yes. If the utility restarts the boilers to generate electricity, regardless of the fossil fuel used, any CCR surface impoundments at the facility can become subject to the rule.
- Is CCR from a facility that is no longer part of the NAICS code 221112 (Fossil Fuel Electric Power Generation) because the fossil fuel power plant has closed regulated under the rule if the CCR is sent for off-site management?
Yes. The rule applies to the solid waste management and/or disposal of CCR generated by electric utilities and independent power producers. 40 CFR section 257.50(b). This includes disposal that occurs at (1) all electric utilities and independent power producers that produce electricity after the effective date of the rule, irrespective of the fuel used to produce the electricity; and (2) disposal that occurs off-site of the electric utility, except for disposal at a municipal solid waste landfill. 40 CFR section 257.50(e) applies to the electric utilities and independent power producers that have entirely ceased generating electricity (i.e., have closed) prior to the effective date of the rule, not to the CCR generated by such facilities.
- What requirements apply when CCR from an existing impoundment at an active power plant is dredged (i.e., pursuant to state legislation or other legal requirement) and the CCR is moved to a different unlined impoundment at the same site?
In the situation described, both units would be defined as existing CCR surface impoundments subject to all the applicable provisions of the rule. The rule does not prohibit placement of the dredged material (CCR) in another existing unlined surface impoundment, provided the other unlined unit has not triggered closure by one of three specific provisions: (1) groundwater monitoring shows an exceedance of a groundwater protection standard; (2) the facility fails to demonstrate compliance with the minimum factors of safety to ensure structural stability of the unit; (3) the facility fails to demonstrate compliance with the location criteria. See 40 CFR section 257.101.
- Does the final rule address the status of non-slurried non-impounded coal ash that was formally and remains landfilled?
CCR landfills that are "active" (i.e., receive CCR on or after the effective date) are subject to the requirements of the final CCR rule, and must comply with the requirements for "existing" CCR landfills. However, CCR landfills that do not receive any CCR on or after the effective date are considered to be "inactive" CCR landfills, and are not subject to the requirements of the final CCR rule.
- If a state-permitted Subtitle D solid waste landfill wants to permit an ash monofill cell to receive CCR waste as part of their state-permitted area, would the site also need to meet the CCR rules for that cell from a design, groundwater monitoring, and data publishing standpoint? Even if the ash cell would fall within the scope of the state permit and state regulations for a municipal solid waste landfill?
If the landfill is a permitted municipal solid waste landfill, it is not subject to the requirements of the CCR rule. All other landfills that accept or manage CCR (e.g., an industrial solid waste landfill) are subject to all of the landfill requirements of the CCR rule, whether or not it has a state solid waste landfill permit.
- Do the regulations cover CCR landfills only onsite of an existing power plant, or does it regulate all CCR landfills, regardless if they are onsite of a power plant?
With one exception, all operating or active CCR landfills are subject to the requirements of the rule whether they are on-site or off-site of the utility. See 40 CFR section 257.50(b). The sole exception is municipal solid waste landfills, which the regulation specifies are not subject to the rule. See 40 CFR section 257.50(i).
- Are small ponds containing CCR from uniquely associated wastes such as boiler washes, air preheater washes, or precipitator washes covered by the rule? If they are uniquely associated wastes, does that mean they cannot be CCR?
Uniquely associated wastes, as defined in the revised 40 CFR section 261.4 (see pages 21500 and 21501 of the April 17, 2015 Federal Register Notice) are not CCR but are solid wastes covered by the Bevill exemption for fossil fuel combustion wastes at 40 CFR section 261.4(b)(4). Small ponds or impoundments that meet the definition of a CCR surface impoundment would be subject to the rule even if the CCR is co-disposed with other solid wastes, such as the uniquely associated wastes.
Want to look at all of the 2015 final rule implementation questions at once? Check out the complete list in PDF format.