EPA announces plan to relax coal power plant waste rules

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday proposed scaling back the requirements around storing and releasing waste from coal-fired power plants, despite also finding an increase in toxic leaks from waste pits.

Posted: Nov 4, 2019 2:48 PM

(CNN) -- The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday proposed scaling back the requirements around storing and releasing waste from coal-fired power plants, despite also finding an increase in toxic leaks from waste pits.

The proposals would relax Obama-era rules from 2015 about the disposal of toxic wastewater and coal ash from the power plants. Coal ash, a mix of fine powder and sludge that is a by-product of burning coal, is commonly stored in pits and landfills. The wastewater can contain dangerous metals such as mercury and arsenic.

The proposals would reduce costs to plant operators at a time when the coal industry is struggling and the number of coal-fired power plants is declining. The Washington Post and The New York Times first reported the administration's planned announcements.

The stricter 2015 regulations are becoming more expensive for operators, the Trump administration said, because it was discovered that "more surface impoundments regardless of liner type are leaking" compared to the Obama administration's estimate four years ago.

Ninety-two percent of coal ash ponds are leaking, according to Lisa Evans of the environmental law organization Earthjustice, which opposes the proposals. "So much more harm is occurring than the Obama EPA expected," Evans told CNN.

The Trump administration estimated the changes would save power plant operators around $215 million every year. It also said its changes to wastewater rules would result in fewer toxic discharges by allowing new methods of compliance, such as filtration systems. It also allow plants to use a membrane filtration system to filter wastewater and then release it.

The administration would allow operators to request extensions of deadlines in 2020 and give them an additional eight years to comply -- until December 2028.

Environmental advocates raised concerns the rules would exempt certain plants from compliance.

"These rules are supposed to safeguard our water from toxic pollution, but the laundry list of loopholes proposed by the Trump EPA threatens to completely undo the protections," said Thom Cmar, an attorney with Earthjustice.

In a statement, Abel Russ of the Environmental Integrity Project said, "This administration will stop at nothing to save the coal industry a few bucks."

The rule relaxation comes as companies in the coal industry claimed in court that the current rules were unaffordable and as the Trump administration has taken a "pro-coal" stance.

This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Terre Haute
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 43°
Robinson
Clear
40° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 40°
Indianapolis
Partly Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 47°
Rockville
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 48°
Casey
Partly Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 53°
Brazil
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 43°
Marshall
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 43°
Weekend Showers
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1361569

Reported Deaths: 24671
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook54504110100
DuPage905031279
Will75456990
Lake67145988
Kane58349771
Winnebago33178474
Madison30500519
McHenry28573285
St. Clair27847513
Peoria23094310
Champaign20618145
Sangamon18724234
McLean18138179
Tazewell16938287
Rock Island14970314
Kankakee14176210
Kendall1303893
LaSalle12536243
Macon10750199
DeKalb9856119
Vermilion9628132
Adams8452123
Williamson7428129
Whiteside7160171
Boone669972
Ogle611181
Grundy588775
Clinton575790
Coles568695
Knox5553145
Jackson502464
Henry497066
Livingston481785
Stephenson475381
Woodford473976
Effingham472972
Macoupin469782
Marion4472115
Franklin444874
Monroe435793
Jefferson4291120
Lee416552
Randolph412984
Fulton391955
Morgan388981
Logan386958
Montgomery371974
Bureau371682
Christian365973
Fayette317455
Perry316960
Iroquois301866
McDonough284847
Jersey268949
Douglas258835
Saline256454
Lawrence240525
Shelby229537
Union226040
Crawford211626
Bond204824
Cass199125
Jo Daviess181024
Clark179933
Warren179746
Pike178852
Ford178246
Wayne177553
Hancock175931
Carroll175136
Richland175140
Edgar170239
White169626
Washington164525
Moultrie161028
De Witt150824
Mason150745
Piatt149714
Clay148143
Mercer146933
Johnson143915
Greene143633
Wabash134612
Massac133940
Cumberland129019
Menard123412
Jasper115018
Marshall106918
Hamilton83315
Schuyler7536
Brown7046
Pulaski6887
Stark63723
Edwards56912
Henderson52514
Calhoun5182
Putnam4823
Scott4781
Alexander46811
Gallatin4584
Hardin38612
Pope3204
Out of IL20
Unassigned02351

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 732692

Reported Deaths: 13450
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1002531746
Lake53931975
Allen40779678
St. Joseph35838552
Hamilton35695408
Elkhart28695442
Tippecanoe22419219
Vanderburgh22332397
Porter18838309
Johnson18007379
Hendricks17269315
Clark13007191
Madison12708339
Vigo12470248
LaPorte11970212
Monroe11914170
Delaware10720186
Howard9946216
Kosciusko9438117
Hancock8310141
Bartholomew8078156
Warrick7789155
Floyd7672178
Grant7072174
Wayne7061199
Boone6712101
Morgan6593139
Dubois6162117
Marshall6073111
Cass5826105
Dearborn581878
Henry5758103
Noble562784
Jackson502773
Shelby493196
Lawrence4563120
Harrison436372
Gibson436092
DeKalb429285
Clinton427953
Montgomery425089
Whitley397139
Huntington392980
Steuben389457
Miami382267
Knox372690
Jasper368248
Putnam361660
Wabash354580
Adams341954
Ripley340170
Jefferson331281
White314854
Daviess298199
Wells291881
Decatur285492
Fayette281262
Greene279785
Posey271933
LaGrange267870
Scott266954
Clay260547
Washington241632
Randolph241181
Spencer232431
Jennings230449
Starke217154
Fountain213046
Sullivan212042
Owen201956
Jay196330
Fulton195540
Carroll189420
Orange184154
Perry183537
Rush173725
Vermillion169643
Franklin168435
Tipton163045
Parke146416
Blackford135132
Pike134934
Pulaski116945
Newton108134
Brown102441
Crawford100615
Benton98914
Martin89015
Warren82215
Switzerland7938
Union71010
Ohio57111
Unassigned0417