WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.), praised the bipartisan deal with the House of Representatives to include authorization for permit programs for the control of coal combustion residuals in the final Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act announced today. The provision makes several improvements to the coal combustion residuals section that was included in the version passed by the Senate on September 15 to better protect the rights of states that want to operate permit programs and to provide more certainty for the regulated community:
“We’re pleased that the final WIIN package builds off the Senate passed provision and provides the authority that states have been seeking to regulate coal ash through authorized state permit programs,” the senators said. “This new permitting authority fixes the main problems with the recent coal ash regulation issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, by removing citizen suits as the sole means of enforcement and allowing states to tailor permit requirements on a case-by-case basis. We’re happy that we were able to work with our colleagues in the House and Senate on a bipartisan basis to get this important legislation across the finish line.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule on Dec. 19, 2014, to regulate the management and disposal of coal combustion residuals from utilities as a nonhazardous waste under Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Because of the limited authority under RCRA Subtitle D, the requirements of the EPA rule apply directly to facilities and are enforceable only by citizen suits, not through state or federal permit programs. This legislation amends RCRA to authorize State permit programs, subject to EPA approval and oversight, to regulate coal combustion residual units based on the technical standards in EPA’s rule or state-specific standards that are at least as protective as those in the EPA rule.
The changes in this legislation from the version passed by the Senate in September include:
- Extending the time period for when EPA must review authorized state programs from 5 years to 12 years;
- Extending the deadline by when EPA must approve a state’s program
sfrom 90 days to 180 days to accommodate public notice and comment on a state’s application for program approval;
- Changing the authority of states to request EPA review of another state’s program;
- Mandating EPA to operate backstop permit programs in states that are not authorized, subject to the availability of appropriations.
This bipartisan, bicameral legislation was developed with input from states, the regulated community, environmental groups, and EPA.