January 22, 2020
Contact: Tom Lalley

State Attorneys General Urge EPA to Scrap Pollution Control Rollbacks, Deadline Extensions for Toxic Coal Ash Ponds

AGs call proposal “one more subsidy for dirty, non-economical coal plants at the expense of public health and the environment.”

Washington, D.C. — State attorneys general, led by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, submitted comments yesterday opposing two rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) related to coal ash, the toxic remains of coal burned in power plants that is stored in hundreds of unlined ponds across the country.
The first proposed rule would extend deadlines for closing coal ash ponds, known as impoundments, as far out as 2028; the second proposed rule would allow increased discharges of pollutants such as arsenic, lead, mercury, and selenium into waterways. In their comments, the AGs say that they “oppose any effort to weaken, roll back, or improperly extend the deadlines for compliance with either the closure requirements applicable to coal ash impoundments or the effluent limitation guidelines applicable to power plants that generate coal ash and related pollutants.”
Regarding the proposed rule covering closure deadlines, the AGs say that the EPA:

  1. “Has unlawfully ignored recent data showing the heightened environmental and public health risks posed by unlined coal ash impoundments;
  2. “Appears to allow consideration of cost and convenience in granting impoundments more time to close, in flagrant violation of RCRA [Resource Conservation and Recovery Act] and the D.C. Circuit’s pronouncements;
  3. “Arbitrarily and irrationally allows impoundments to take advantage of the newly expanded alternative closure provisions even if their closure obligations have been clear since 2015;
  4. “Fails to delete the regulatory exemption for ‘legacy ponds’ that the D.C. Circuit held was arbitrary and capricious;
  5. “And in contravention of RCRA’s mandate to encourage public participation, the Coal Ash Proposal has not even been the subject of an in-person hearing."

Regarding the proposed rule covering discharges of wastewater, the AGs point out that it would arbitrarily allow some power plants to continue to pollute waterways, including “low-utilization” plants and those that will close by December 31, 2028. The AGs note that the EPA attempts to support these changes with “little more than speculative concerns about the reliability of the electrical grid and conclusory statements about cost,” when in fact, they are “just one more subsidy for dirty, non-economical coal plants at the expense of public health and the environment.”
The attorneys general of Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Vermont, joined Maryland in submitting the comments.


About the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (State Impact Center) is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advocate for clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
For more information, visit our website