CHARLESTON — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently shifted oversight of coal combustion byproducts from the federal level to the state level for the first time.
Oklahoma has been the first state to receive an approval permit for a state program to regulate waste from coal-fired plants.
When asked what this could mean for West Virginia, David L. Yaussy, the chair of the Environmental Practice Group at Spilman Thomas & Battle, said the state has solid waste management regulations already.
David L. Yaussy
"They had a provision in there that dealt with coal combustion byproducts for that," Yaussy said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. "However, after the big ash bill that occurred in 2008, Congress insisted on new requirements and the EPA brought the new requirements for CCR."
Yaussy said West Virginia had regulations before but when those new requirements came into effect, they weren’t stringent enough.
Yaussy thinks it would be good for West Virginia to have this control.
"We have a number of sites that generate coal combustion residuals and it would make sense to be able to regulate those here under state authority the same way we do other solid waste," Yaussy said.
Yaussy said if you look at the current rule it notes the coal combustion byproduct facility.
"There was a process in place to regulate the disposal of them, but after 2008, states had to upgrade their regulations," Yaussy said.
The coal waste left after burning coal to generate power can potentially contaminate ground water, among other things, if not taken care of properly.
Environmental groups have fought for federal oversight because they believe the states aren't strict enough on their own.
The EPA previously invited states to propose state-level programs pursuant to the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN).
Currently, Texas and Georgia also are seeking approval to regulate coal waste on a state level.