Illinois EPA wins delay for review of its proposed coal ash disposal rule

The Illinois Pollution Control Board on May 7 put a 90-day hold on its review of a proposed coal ash disposal rule from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency so that the state EPA could do more work on evaluating that proposal against a final coal combustion waste rule issued this past December by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In October 2013, the Illinois EPA filed a proposal with the coal to add Part 841 entitled “Coal Combustion Waste Surface Impoundments at Power Generating Facilities” to the board’s Subtitle G waste disposal regulations. The state agency proposed rules establishing processes to monitor these impoundments and for preventive response, corrective action, and closure. The board has held four hearings on the proposed regulations and has received post-hearing comments from various participants.

On Jan. 20, 2015, the Illinois EPA filed a motion to stay this proceeding. It said that the U.S. EPA finalized its rules for disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCR) from electric utilities in December 2014. The state agency told the board that “[t]he federal rule contains minimum criteria for CCR surface impoundments consisting of location restrictions, design and operating criteria, groundwater monitoring, corrective action, closure requirements, post closure care, recordkeeping, and notification requirements.” The agency argues that the federal rules are similar but not identical to the proposed rules submitted to the board in this docket.

The U.S. EPA’s final rule was published on April 17 and will become effective six months after that date on Oct. 14.

The state agency wants to stay board action for 90 days while it “evaluates whether changes to the Agency’s proposal are necessary as a result of the newly adopted minimum federal criteria.” The agency stated that, at the conclusion of any stay granted by the board, it will file a status report.

On Jan. 30, Midwest Generation LLC (MG) filed a response supporting the agency’s motion. Midwest Generation said it agrees with the state agency that “a brief stay would conserve administrative resources and assist the Board in developing rules that are appropriate and do not conflict with” the federal rule. Noting that the agency commits to filing a status report at the conclusion of a stay, Midwest Generation “anticipates that this status report will contain substantive remarks on the federal CCR rule.”

Said the May 7 board order: “The Board agrees that a 90-day stay will allow the Agency to review the federal CCR rules and determine whether to revise its proposal. The Board grants the Agency’s motion for a 90-day stay and directs the Agency to file a status report on or before Wednesday, August 5, 2015, 90 days from the date of this order. The Board notes MG’s argument that a 30-day response period would allow other participants in this rulemaking to address any substantive comments made by the Agency in its status report. If the status report includes comment beyond a request to extend the stay of these proceedings, the Board’s hearing officer will set a deadline to file a response.”

Midwest Generation is a unit of NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) that operates several coal-fired power plants in Illinois.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.