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Political Science

Leading off the webinar, John Ward, chairman of Denver-based Citizens for Recycling First and a veteran of ash management/marketing leader Headwaters

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Leading off the webinar, John Ward, chairman of Denver-based Citizens for Recycling First and a veteran of ash management/marketing leader Headwaters Resources, explains how the EPA, through the RCRA Subtitle C proposal, is setting up a situation as such: If a truck carrying coal ash turns one way out of a gate toward a landfill, the load is considered hazardous waste; if it turns the other way, with the coal ash destined for concrete used in a street, home, or hospital, the load is not considered hazardous waste.

In the event of a Subtitle C listing, Ward observes: a) Will a utility be willing to put out to thousands of sites in its community a material like fly ash that is considered hazardous waste on its own property? b) Will architects and engineers continue to allow fly ash in concrete specifications if the material is called hazardous someplace else? and, c) Will ultimate end users of the product become concerned when some enterprising personal injury attorney shows up and says do you know you have hazardous waste in your wallboard or concrete?

Subtitle C listing proponents are anticoal groups; the proposed EPA rulemaking fits with their claim of toxic ash, which has become the third leg of the anticoal lobbying stool, accompanying climate change and mountaintop mining. Among nine inconvenient truths about coal ash politics Ward reviews in Coal Ash as a Hazardous Waste?:

  • Senior EPA officials prefer Subtitle C. They were forced by the White House to introduce two co-equal proposals but there's no secret that what the agency wants is a hazardous waste designation.
  • Enforcement authority is the real issue, not the toxicity of the material. Agency officials want federal (versus state) enforcement authority of coal ash disposal; the only way they can get that is through RCRA and calling CCR a hazardous waste under Subtitle C.
  • Stigma is the achilles heal. EPA's proposal hinges on the supposition that by calling CCR a hazardous waste, recycling of the material will actually increase. Utilities will have a greater incentive to try to recycle CCR rather than dispose of it because disposal costs will go through the roof with the hazardous waste designation. If the stigma concerning fly ash is real, the EPA economic analysis fails.
  • Some environmental activists advocating Subtitle C are willing to sacrifice the benefits of recycling proven by such examples as fly ash concrete.
  • A CCR rule will take a while, as the EPA will need to prepare a final proposal, which then might be litigated. The end of the rulemaking is far in the future, but that does not mean there is not a need for stakeholders to engage now.
  • Greenhouse gas reduction associated with coal ash, especially through recycling with the use of fly ash in concrete Û and offsetting of carbon dioxide emissions in portland cement production Û is another factor in play. Do this Congress and Administration want to walk away from a bonafide, demonstrably good way of recycling that is reponsible for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15 million tons/year? They need to find suitable way to protect this method of recycling.