Acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, just signed his first major regulatory amendment — making it easier for corporations to discard coal ash however they see fit.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday finalized a rule that rolls back standards for disposing of the toxic ash produced by burning coal, The Hillreports. The amendment was in the works for several months, but when Wheeler took over for Scott Pruitt earlier this month, he took the reins. Pruitt resigned as EPA administrator following a string of ethics scandals.
The amendment backpedals on regulations put in place by the Obama administration, which mandated strict federal standards for coal ash disposal in 2015. In a statement, the EPA said relaxing the standards would save $31.4 million a year in regulatory costs, as states are given authority to loosen or waive requirements for companies.
"These amendments provide states and utilities much-needed flexibility in the management of coal ash, while ensuring human health and the environment are protected," said Wheeler in the statement. Environmental groups disagree, reports The Hill, and immediately condemned the measure as dangerous to groundwater and air pollution.
Companies with lax standards may not be required to monitor whether coal ash leaches into surrounding groundwater and will have extended deadlines to reduce coal ash disposal. The EPA has also loosened pollution standards on acceptable levels of lead, lithium, cobalt, and molybdenum in groundwater. Read more at The Hill.Summer Meza