Environmental groups and coal-firing operations will have to wait even longer for federal regulations to ensure the protection of public health and the environment regarding the storage of coal ash, according to a statement from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency was saddled with the hefty task of setting guidelines on the storage of coal ash impoundment ponds months ago and had promised a decision on regulating those plants by the end of the year. But as the days ticked by, having a proposal before 2010 rang in was looking less and less likely. The EPA confirmed that hunch this week with a formal announcement, stating that it expects to issue a proposed rule in the “near future.”
The EPA was charged with defining the guidelines after last year’s devastating coal ash spill from an impoundment pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Kingston, Tenn., plant. More than a billion gallons of toxic material tumbled down on neighboring land, knocking homes from their foundations, destroying property and contaminating waterways.
Coal ash is not considered a hazardous material, thus it did not fall under government regulations. However, since the Kingston spill, it was revealed that improvements in coal firing has made the ash left behind more toxic than years prior. Coal ash contains arsenic, lead, chromium, manganese and barium, which have been linked to serious health problems such as cancer, liver damage ad neurological complications.
The EPA says it is delayed in proposing guidelines because of “the complexity of the analysis the agency is currently finishing” and the agency is “still actively clarifying and refining parts of the proposal.”