Coal ash? Comment now!

September 22nd, 2019

Remember the huge coal ash impoundment ruptures/breeches dumping coal ash all over? THIS is why treatment and use of coal ash matters:

TVA coal ash slide – UPDATES

And even in Minnesota: TVA coal ash — we had our own ash slide here in MN

There was a rule update and comments in 2018, and it was remanded, and so here we go around again…

FEDERAL REGISTER ANNOUNCEMENT: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities

Comments must be received on or before October 15, 2019!

From the EPA’s announcement (CLICK HERE):

Public Hearing on the Proposed Changes to the Regulations for Coal Combustion Residuals: Enhancing Public Access to Information and Reconsideration of Beneficial Use Criteria and Piles

Wed, October 2, 2019

9:00 AM – 8:00 PM EDT

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel

300 Army Navy Drive

Arlington, VA 22202

The public hearing will consist of three sessions:

  • A morning session starting at 9:00 am and ending at noon.
  • An early afternoon session starting at 1:00 pm and ending at 4:00 pm.
  • An evening session beginning at 5:00 pm and ending at 8:00 pm.


Just do it, comment away!!! Comments must be received on or before October 15, 2019.

Coal ash, remember that big impoundment release, photo above, not all that long ago?

Good grief, it was a DECADE ago, and it’s still a mess.  From the EPA page:

EPA’s response to the TVA coal ash release in Kingston, TN

And another ash impoundment failure, our friends at Duke Energy, from EPA page:

EPA’s response to the Duke Energy coal ash spill in Eden, NC

It’s an issue in Minnesota too:

Who cares?  Well, once a rule is proposed, there’s not much variation, because if there is, then it has to start all over again and go through this process.  This is proposed to “amend” the 2015 final rule, so it can’t be good.  Speak up NOW!  Go to EPA’s and make Comments under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2017-0286 — open for 45 days after the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, which is/was when?  Figure it’s published NOW, and just do it.

From the EPA’s site, here’s the rule proposed to gut the 2015 final rule, because gutting regulation, that’s what this administration does:

View a pre-publication version of the proposed rule

And here’s the poop cut and pasted direct from the source:

Proposed Amendments to the National Regulations (Phase One)

On March 1, 2018, EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, signed the first of two rules that proposes to amend the April 2015 final rule. The proposal:

  1. Addresses provisions of the final rule that were remanded back to the Agency on June 14, 2016 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit;
  2. Provides states with approved CCR permit programs (or EPA where it is the permitting authority) under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act the ability to set certain alternative performance standards; and
  3. Addresses one additional issue that has arisen since the April 2015 publication of the final rule.

EPA is proposing six provisions that would allow states or EPA the ability to incorporate flexibilities into their coal ash permit programs. These flexibilities would also be available to facilities with U.S. EPA-issued CCR permits.

Additionally, the proposal:

  • Clarifies the type and magnitude of non-groundwater releases that would require a facility to comply with some or all of the corrective action procedures set forth in title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in sections 257.96 through 257.98 in meeting their obligation to clean up the release.
  • Adds boron to the list of constituents in Appendix IV of 40 CFR part 257 that trigger corrective action.
  • Determines the requirement for proper height of woody and grassy vegetation for slope protection.
  • Revises the current regulations to allow the use of CCR in the construction of final cover systems for CCR units closing pursuant to 40 CFR section 257.101 that are closing with waste-in-place.
  • Adds a new paragraph to 40 CFR section 257.103 to allow facilities to qualify for the alternative closure provisions based on the continued need to manage non-CCR wastestreams in the unit.

EPA will be accepting written comments on this proposal through under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2017-0286 for 45 days after the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register.

Additionally, EPA will hold a hearing on this proposed rule. Additional information about the hearing will be posted in the docket for this proposal and on this website in the near future.

And more, cut and pasted from EPA:


breaking news, more later…

Here it is in Huffington Post:

SECOND TVA SPILL: Dam Breaks at Alabama Coal Plant

Here we have in in the Tennessean:

Second TVA coal ash pond ruptures

By ANNE PAINE • Staff Writer • January 9, 2009

Alabama environmental officials were on their way as of 10:15 a.m.
Central Time to an spill at TVA’s Widows Creek coal-fired power plant in
northeastern Alabama.

TVA confirmed an ash-related spill at a second TVA plant, this time at
its Widows Creek plant in northeastern Alabama.

“I had heard that that’s the case,” confirmed Barbara Martocci, TVA
spokesman who was at the Kingston plant in Tennessee.

Scott Hughes, spokesman for the Alabama Department of Environmental
Management said, “The only thing we’ve got right now is that there was a
release from a gypsum treatment operation.”

“We do understand that some of the material has reached Widows Creek.”
The creek from which TVA’s coal burning plant gets its name, crosses the
plant property. Gypsum is one of the byproducts when special filters
capture and treat ash. It can be sold for use in wallboard, but markets
have been slow and it like more standard ash can build up in waste ponds.

“We’re in the process of gathering more info and getting a full report.”

Kingston is the scene of a TVA ash pond that ruptured: Early on the
morning of Dec. 22, more than a billion gallons of sludge flowed out of
the pond, damaging a dozen homes and creating environmental havoc along
the Emory River.

The Widows Creek Fossil Plant is located on Guntersville Reservoir on
the Tennessee River. It has eight coal-fired units and was completed in
1965. The plant consumes about 10,000 tons of coal a day. The ash from
that coal was in the pond that broke there.

Regarding the TVA coal ash slide on December 23 — this report wandered into my inbox today, and for inquiring minds, here’s the:

Kingston Fossil Plant Annual Ash Pond Dike Stability Inspection 2008

You’ll see some problematic areas highlighted in yellow.  Check this out!


Today’s STrib has an article about Minnesota coal ash piles, prompted by the TVA coal ash disaster in Tennessee.  Seems Minnesota regulators have been sleeping at the switch —  the three ash piles in dikes “classified as dams” in Minnesota are supposed to be inspected every eight years, and there are “no” records of inspections for two out of three.  NONE.  Not good odds. The three sites in Minnesota are at Xcel’s Sherco plant in Becker, MP’s Boswell in Cohasset and Laskin Energy Center in Hoyt Lakes (remember Hoyt Lakes?  Where the Mayor testified “We’re used to mercury here.”  Uh-huh…).

Thanks to the STrib for reporting on this:

Engineers to inspect 3 state dams for waste ash

The STrib’s “yes it CAN happen here, yes it HAS happened here” heads up on Minnesota’s own prior coal ash disaster, spilling all over Highway 61 and into Lake Superior:

The disaster highlights the concerns over disposal of coal ash, which has been a worry in Minnesota because of the risk of groundwater contamination. The Tennessee ash slide also is reminiscent of a July 1993 mishap on Minnesota’s North Shore, in which a rain-soaked coal ash heap crashed down the hillside.

Fly ash is known to become unstable when saturated with water. It happened 15 years ago on the North Shore of Lake Superior, when a 27-acre ash heap at a former LTV Steel power plant turned into uncontrollable sludge after heavy rain. About half of the heap crashed down the hillside, covering part of Hwy. 61 near Taconite Harbor and knocking out an electric substation. Some reached the lake, and the land cleanup cost the company $11 million, said Jeff Stollenwerk of the Pollution Control Agency.

Needless to say, Minnesota’s coal ash slide went to court:

Arrowhead Electric Cooperative v. LTV Steel

Here’s the court’s description of what happened:

Between 1957 and June 1982, LTV and Cliffs (collectively LTV) deposited waste ash, generated by LTV’s plant, on an ash heap located uphill from UPA’s facility. The heap consisted of approximately 770,000 cubic yards of waste ash, covering approximately 27 acres. When the contract was agreed to, much of the ash heap was covered with top soil, grass, legumes, and new growth trees.

In March 1991, LTV applied to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for a permit to resume depositing ash on the heap. The MPCA investigated and determined that the deposits could be polluting Lake Superior through rain and other water run-off. The MPCA issued a “no discharge” requirement, ordering LTV to stop the release of water from the ash pile.

LTV had several options for compliance, including placing a clay cover over the ash pile or hauling away the water from the ash pile. Instead, LTV opted to construct a containment and recirculation system, consisting of a large pond on the downhill side of the ash heap to collect surface runoff and leachate water. Water was pumped from the pond to the top tier of the ash heap, sprayed back onto the heap, and dispersed by “evapotranspiration”; i.e., evaporation of water through the vegetation covering the ash pile. This system was approved by the MPCA.

LTV also hauled excess water from a coal stockpile and dumped the water into the pond or directly onto the ash heap. The level of water in the ash heap was increased by above normal rainfall in July 1993. On July 28, 1993, the ash heap became saturated and liquified (a rare phenomenon called “static liquefaction”). A large part of the ash heap collapsed, and a mixture of ash and water flowed downhill, causing damage to UPA’s facilities.

For damages resulting from the ash slide, UPA recovered $509,345.38 from its casualty insurer, Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. Hartford brought this subrogation action against LTV on theories of negligence, trespass, nuisance, and strict liability. LTV denied liability and affirmatively alleged that an act of God (the above-normal July rainfall) caused the ash heap’s collapse.

The result in the case?  Mixed:

The insurer of an electrical cooperative brought this subrogation action against mining companies to recover payments for property damage caused by the collapse and liquification of a large ash heap. The district court ruled that an exculpatory clause in a contract with the electrical co-op exonerated the mining companies from strict liability but was unenforceable because it violated public policy. We affirm the construction of the exculpatory clause but reverse the determination that the exculpatory clause violated public policy. We also affirm the inapplicability of the act of God defense, and we remand for further proceedings to determine whether the mining companies are liable for willfully causing the damage.