Hazardous or not? The EPA should develop a hybrid model that doesn't penalize those states - like Wisconsin - that take proper care of coal ash.

( Milwaukee Sentinel 9-15-2010) The federal Environmental Protection Agency is considering two options that each would increase federal standards and scrutiny of the disposal of waste from coal-fired power plants. One option (Subtitle C in EPA parlance) would classify the waste - generally known as coal ash or fly ash - as hazardous and provide strict federal permitting and oversight of its disposal. The other (Subtitle D) would not label the byproduct as hazardous and would allow states to generally oversee coal ash, while still providing federal intervention in certain situations.
The best option, however, would be a hybrid that provides federal intervention and enforcement in states that don't do enough to protect the environment while allowing states that do a good job - such as Wisconsin - to continue what they're doing. We believe the state will make that point in testimony at a hearing on the proposed rules Thursday in Chicago. The feds should pay close attention to what Wisconsin tells them.
If coal ash is a hazardous waste under EPA definitions, it should be classified as one with all the attendant regulations that accompany such a classification. But analysis by the state Department of Natural Resources says it does not meet the definitions, according to Ann Coakley, director of the Bureau of Waste and Materials Management at the DNR. The EPA has several times in the past declined to classify the substance as hazardous.
Environmentalists argue that newer tests make a good case for the hazardous waste classification. The EPA should look at those tests to see if the science bears out those claims. The Sierra Club and Clean Wisconsin also make a good case that too many states do a poor job of making sure that coal ash is handled properly and that federal oversight is warranted.
We agree - in those states doing a poor job. But although there might be spot problems, Wisconsin utilities - We Energies in particular - generally do an exemplary job of recycling coal ash into other products such as cement. The utilities make a good case, and the state agrees, that demand for the recycled product would be hurt if it was classified as a hazardous waste. The state also believes that electricity rates would go up and that at least 10 hazardous waste landfills would have to be built in Wisconsin under option C. We Energies estimates that option C would cost the utility $300 million a year.
By all means, the feds should improve their general oversight of coal ash and should step in where it is warranted. But model states such as Wisconsin should not be overly burdened with new regulations that could hurt effective recycling efforts of a waste product.
To view the original article please go to: http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/102999994.html