Proposed Changes for Legacy Coal Combustion Residuals Surface Impoundments and Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) Management Units
The USEPA is proposing changes to the CCR regulations for inactive surface impoundments at inactive electric utilities, referred to as “legacy CCR surface impoundments.” The USEPA is proposing that within tailored compliance deadlines, owners and operators of legacy CCR surface impoundments comply with all existing requirements applicable to inactive CCR surface impoundments at active facilities, except for the location restrictions and liner design criteria. These are ponds which were exempted from the original rule in 2015.
This action is in response to the August 21, 2018 opinion by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, et al v. EPA), which voided the provision that exempted inactive impoundments at inactive facilities from the April 17, 2015 CCR rule. The notice for the proposed rule changes came out on May 18, 2023.
Legacy CCR surface impoundments are more likely to be unlined and unmonitored, making them more prone to leaks and structural problems than units at utilities that are currently in service. Legacy CCR surface impoundment and CCR management units are currently not regulated at the federal level and pose risks to groundwater. Therefore, as part of this action, the USEPA is also proposing to establish groundwater monitoring, corrective action, closure, and post closure care requirements for all CCR management units (regardless of how or when that CCR was placed) at regulated CCR facilities. These additional requirements may result in substantial additional long-term costs for facilities with these types of impoundments, depending on how legacy CCR impoundments are currently managed at the state level.
The USEPA will collect public comments on this proposal until July 17, 2023. The USEPA will host an in-person hearing in Chicago, IL on June 28, 2023 and an online public hearing on July 12, 2023. Once the rule is finalized, it is expected to impact as many as 400 CCR units nationwide.
If you have a facility with legacy CCR surface impoundments and need help understanding how the proposed changes might affect you, please reach out using the form below.