WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- American Coal Ash Association representatives appearing at a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency public hearing tomorrow will testify that the agency's proposal for revising coal ash regulations will erect significant barriers to safely recycling coal ash.
"EPA's proposals related to the definition of coal ash beneficial use are the opposite of a regulatory roll-back," said Thomas H. Adams, ACAA Executive Director. "Without any damage cases or scientific analysis to justify its actions, the agency is seeking to impose burdensome new restrictions that will cause millions more tons of material to be disposed rather than be used in ways that safely conserve natural resources and energy."
Decades of EPA activities under both Democrat and Republican administrations – including Reports to Congress in 1988 and 1999; Regulatory Determinations in 1993 and 2000; and the 2015 Final Rule now under consideration for revision – all concluded that beneficial use should be exempt from regulation and encouraged to contribute to sustainability. The 2015 Final Rule issued under the Obama Administration "…found no data or other information to indicate that existing efforts of states, EPA, and other federal agencies had been inadequate to address the environmental issues associated with the beneficial use of CCR." The 2015 regulation established a definition of beneficial use intended to screen out large quantity, indiscriminate uses that might be disposal activities masquerading as beneficial use.
"The problem with EPA's beneficial use definition was that it contained a math error," said Adams. "But instead of simply fixing the math error, EPA is now proposing unjustified and sweeping changes to the definition that will have the effect of discouraging recycling. EPA is proposing to vastly expand the number of beneficial use activities that must be evaluated on a project by project basis and the record keeping that must accompany legitimate recycling activities. People won't do it. They'll just let the materials go to the landfill instead."
Adams pointed out that since 1980, 188.7 million tons of coal ash have been utilized in structural fill applications without a damage case being presented associated with the activity. "States already regulate these activities," said Adams. "Consensus-based standards that include site location criteria and industry best practices already guide how these projects are carried out. Despite this, the agency has now strayed from its original objective of focusing greater scrutiny on large volume, indiscriminate placements of coal ash to propose project by project evaluations of a whole host of activities that may involve volumes as small as a single ton."
Adams predicted that if EPA enacts it proposals, the United States will see more CCRs disposed; more natural resources consumed; more water, fossil fuels, electricity, and other resources consumed as virgin natural resources are extracted; and increased project costs. "Any environmental benefits to be achieved by erecting these barriers to beneficial use are at best speculative and non-quantifiable and more likely, simply non-existent," Adams said.
About Coal Ash Beneficial Use
Coal is the fuel source for approximately one-third of electricity generation in the United States and produces large volumes of solid coal combustion products ("CCPs") — primarily ash and synthetic gypsum from emissions control devices. This family of diverse products is referred to as coal combustion residuals ("CCRs") in a disposal setting and is often generically referred to as "coal ash."
There are many good reasons to view coal combustion products as a resource, rather than a waste. Recycling them conserves natural resources and saves energy. In many cases, products made with CCPs perform better than products made without it. For instance, coal fly ash makes concrete stronger and more durable. It also reduces the need to manufacture cement, resulting in significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions – about 14 million tons in 2017 alone.
Major uses of coal combustion products include concrete, cement, gypsum wallboard, blasting grit, roofing granules, and a variety of geotechnical and agricultural applications.
According to ACAA's most recent "Production and Use Survey," 64.4 percent of the coal ash produced during 2017 was recycled – establishing a new record and marking the third consecutive year that more than half of the coal ash produced in the United States was beneficially used rather than disposed. By volume, 71.8 million tons of coal combustion products were beneficially used in 2017 out of 111.3 million tons that were produced. The total volume of material utilized increased by 11.6 million tons. Coal ash production volume increased 4 percent from 2016 levels.
American Coal Ash Association was established in 1968 as a trade organization devoted to beneficial use of the materials created when coal is burned to generate electricity. Its members comprise the world's foremost experts on coal ash (fly ash and bottom ash), boiler slag, flue gas desulfurization gypsum (aka "synthetic" gypsum), and other "FGD" materials captured by emissions controls.
ACAA's mission is to advance the management and use of these coal combustion products ("CCPs") in ways that are: environmentally responsible; technically sound; commercially competitive; and supportive of a sustainable global community.
For more information, visit www.acaa-usa.org.
SOURCE American Coal Ash Association