Coal Ash Rule Still On Track?

(OMB Watch 4-27-2010) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency still plans to issue a proposal for the regulation of coal ash in the coming weeks, according to the agency’s most recent regulatory agenda.EPA projected an April release date for the proposal. The timeline is found in the semiannual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions which Executive Branch agencies published today. The details of the proposal are not indicated.
EPA’s coal ash proposal has been held up since the agency sent a draft proposed rule to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on Oct. 16, 2009. Proponents of coal ash regulation have criticized OIRA for its handling of the EPA rule. OIRA has missed internal deadlines for approving or denying the proposal all the while meeting with industry representatives (and environmental and public health advocates) on dozens of occasions. The protracted review has caused fear that the White House may quash or water down EPA plans to regulate the management and disposal of coal ash – a toxic byproduct of coal combustion.
I’m not sure how to interpret EPA’s projected release date. Does the agency really believe it can unveil a proposal this week, or is it trying to avoid the appearance that OIRA is going to continue to delay the rule? More importantly, the Unified Agenda does not give detailed information on rules that agencies have yet to make public, so we cannot know whether the OIRA review has had an impact on the substance of the coal ash rule.
Other items of interest from EPA’s 342-entry section of the Unified Agenda:
EPA projects that it will officially withdraw in May a regulation that allows certain classes of hazardous wastes to be burned instead of properly handled and disposed of. The original rule was one of the Bush administration’s midnight regulations.
EPA says it will finalize in May greenhouse gas emissions standards for stationary industrial sources like factories and oil refineries. A draft of the final rule was sent to OIRA last week.
EPA projects that it will tighten the national air quality standard for ozone, or smog, in September.
Among the 43 brand new entries for EPA, the agency plans to propose greenhouse gas standards for heavy duty vehicles (a follow-on to its recent passenger vehicle standard), add phthalates and bisphenol-A to its list of Chemicals of Concern, and propose standards for new uses of nanomaterials, an emerging class of substances that have gone largely unregulated. 
We’ll have more information on other agencies’ Unified Agenda sections later in the week. If you’ve found anything new or interesting, leave it in the comments.
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