The EPA proposed a rule in 2010 to regulate coal ash and other coal combustion products (CCPs) as either special wastes under the hazardous waste portion of the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, or as a solid waste. AEP favors the solid waste rule pathway.
State agencies, AEP, and other coal users and consumers of products that use coal ash as a basic ingredient for other products objected to the Special Waste classification. They pointed to the enormous cost of disposal, the potential liability attached to products that use coal ash as an ingredient, and existing regulations that could achieve the same results at much lower cost. A final rule was originally anticipated in 2012 but is now expected in late 2013 or later, depending on the outcome of a suit filed by environmental activists and how the EPA addresses the comments it has received on the proposed rule.
In 2012, AEP generated about 8.5 million tons of coal combustion products (CCPs) and was able to beneficially reuse more than 3 million tons, or more than 36 percent. Beneficial reuse of CCPs avoided more than $16.7 million in disposal costs in 2012 and generated another $9.6 million in revenues.
If the EPA regulates CCPs as a hazardous waste, those revenues and avoided costs likely will disappear and CCP management costs will rise dramatically. Our position is that coal ash can be handled safely and at much less cost without a hazardous waste designation. Labeling this useful product a hazardous waste surely will curtail its use in products such as concrete, gypsum, construction fill and asphalt. It will also overwhelm the nation’s designated hazardous waste disposal sites and cost billions of dollars annually.