The Trump administration announced a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule Thursday aimed at giving states the independence to determine how to best dispose of coal ash, the toxic metal left from burning coal.
The EPA said that the deregulations would save utilities nearly $100 million per year in compliance costs and the regulated community between $31 million and $100 million per year.
“Today’s coal ash proposal embodies EPA’s commitment to our state partners by providing them with the ability to incorporate flexibilities into their coal ash permit programs based on the needs of their states,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement.
“We are also providing clarification and an opportunity for public comment – something that is much-needed following the public reaction to the 2015 coal ash rule.”
than 110 million tons of coal ash are produced annually by coal-fired power plants, according to the EPA.
The move is a sharp departure from the Obama administration, which sought to better regulate disposal of the toxic metal.
In 2015, following a number of coal ash leaks that led to severely clogged waterways, the Obama administration proposed regulations that would increase inspections and monitoring as well as impose new requirements for storage liners. They would have also required companies to conduct water quality tests.
The rule met significant opposition from utility industry groups and were never implemented. Litigation against the regulations remains pending.
Pruitt announced in September that the Trump administration would be reconsidering the rule.
“It is important that we give the existing rule a hard look and consider improvements that may help states tailor their permit programs to the needs of their states in a way that provides greater regulatory certainty, while also ensuring that human health and the environment remain protected,” Pruitt said at the time.
EPA said Thursday the rule is one of two it plans to enact to amend coal ash disposal.