May 19—INDIANAPOLIS — A new rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to address coal ash waste at regulated power plants nationwide, including several in Indiana.
The draft rule is being hailed by environmental justice groups in Indiana as a long overdue measure to bring more accountability to utilities which they say have been negligent in disposing of coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal at the state's power plants.
"The EPA's issuance of draft rules that strengthen protections for Hoosier families from toxic coal ash is an important step to finally holding utility polluters accountable for their coal ash messes," Ben Inskeep, program director at Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, said in a news release. "We urge the EPA to adopt stringent rules and take necessary enforcement actions to ensure all coal ash is properly cleaned up and disposed of safely."
Advocates noted that Indiana is home to 100 coal ash dumps, more than any other state. According to research by Earthjustice and the Hoosier Environmental Council, nearly half of them are unregulated, inactive landfills or legacy ponds that currently avoid federal regulation because of a loophole in the federal agency's existing coal combustion residuals (CCR) rule.
The proposed rules could trigger the cleanup of millions of tons of coal ash stored in unlined coal ash ponds and landfills, including one site near Michigan City, where an estimated 2 million cubic yards of fill containing toxic coal ash sits atop land extending into Lake Michigan.
"We have worked for years to get safer coal ash disposal via state policy, but our efforts were blocked since the majority in Indiana's General Assembly insist on limiting state environmental standards to no more than what is required federally," said Indra Frank, director of environmental health and water policy for the Hoosier Environmental Council. "In Indiana, safe coal ash disposal depends on a strong federal rule."
A 60-day public comment period on the proposed rule, published in the federal register, opened Thursday. A final federal rule is expected to take effect in May 2024.
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