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In the fall of 2015, a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation took effect that set environmental-protection requirements at landfills and slurry ponds that dispose of coal ash produced by electricity-generating stations. Coal ash is called “coal combustion residuals” in the regulation.

The requirements relate to design, reporting, monitoring, operation, remediation, and closure. Such facilities are subject to the regulations if they took coal ash after Oct. 19, 2015. The regulation also set out what qualifies as beneficial use of coal ash.

The EPA regulation does not create a federal or state permit program to enforce the requirements. Instead, the EPA will rely on transparent, Web-based reporting by the coal-ash facilities, so that members of the public can check on whether compliance is happening. The regulations authorize citizens to file civil lawsuits against facility owners that they believe to be violating the requirements. These citizen-suit provisions have been a key part of previous environmental initiatives by the federal government.  

The regulation offers a limited role for states if those states update their original “state solid waste management plan” on how they will match the EPA’s coal-ash provisions, and if that update is approved by the EPA. Such re-approved states will have authority to extend the compliance window at specific coal-ash disposal facilities that are having trouble meeting the EPA deadline.

The intent of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency at this time is not to submit an update to its solid waste management plan to the EPA. The reason is that the MPCA has compared the EPA regulatory requirements with the existing MPCA permit and rule requirements that apply to coal-ash landfills and ponds, and has concluded that the MPCA’s approach is equivalent to, or beyond the EPA’s requirements.

If you have questions or concerns, you may contact Ainars Silis, Supervisor, Land and Air Compliance Section, at 651-757-2724.

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