EPA Weakens Rules Governing Toxic Water Pollution
December 18, 2019
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced new regulations and extended deadlines for compliance with mandates affecting coal companies. The new regulations are part of the Trump administration’s efforts to create reasonable regulations on the coal industry, which has been identified as a dying industry. Geothermal and nuclear power have significantly affected the use of coal as an energy source, resulting in a huge reduction in jobs.
Coal mining was at its peak in the early 1900s with more than 800,000 workers. In 2006, that number was down to an estimated 50,000 workers. By relaxing current Obama-era regulations on the coal industry, the Trump administration is hoping to regenerate the use of coal as an efficient and safe form of energy.
What are the Changes in the Coal Ash Regulations?
Coal ash is a solid waste material containing lead, arsenic, and mercury. Unlined coal ash ponds run the risk of contaminating water supplies with toxic metals. Serious health risks are associated with these metals. There are two significant changes in the rules governing coal ash ponds and wastewater, which include:
- Extended Deadline for Closing Unlined Ash Ponds: Rules imposed by the Obama administration in 2015 mandated that all unlined coal ash ponds comply or be shut down by 2018. The new, extended deadline allows affected coal companies to remain open until at least 2020. Coal companies can also apply for an extension that would give them another five years to remain open.
- Changes to Limits on Pollutants in Coal Wastewater Discharged from Coal Plants: New technology has made it possible for coal companies to remove toxic materials, such as arsenic, lead, and mercury from its wastewater. The new regulations are expected to save coal plants an estimated $175 million in compliance costs. A voluntary incentive program will likely result in the removal of over one million pounds of toxic waste each year.
What are the Pros and Cons of the New Coal Regulations?
While utility and coal industries are in favor of the new regulations, many environmental advocates are expressing concerns.
Cons of the New Regulations:
- Extended deadlines for compliance with coal ash ponds could increase the risk for contaminated drinking water for millions of people.
- Toxic elements, such as mercury, lead, and arsenic leaking into the water supplies from unlined coal ash ponds could increase risks for cancer and other toxic diseases.
- Extended deadlines will keep unlined coal ash ponds open for up to eight years, significantly increasing the level of toxicity in water supplies.
- Not all coal companies are likely to comply with the voluntary use of technology to remove toxic elements from the water.
Pros of the New Regulations:
- Coal companies will now have a more realistic timeline for retrofitting unlined coal ash ponds.
- Requests for extensions could give coal companies as long as eight years to secure funding to implement safe wastewater storage.
- Relaxed deadlines encourage quality attention to upgrades and modifications.
- Keeping coal companies open for extended time reduces unemployment and poverty levels.
Delaware Environmental Lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Provide Counsel for Compliance with EPA Regulations
If you need legal counsel for compliance with new EPA regulations on coal, call the Delaware environmental lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. at 302-656-5445 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. Located in Wilmington and Millsboro, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.