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Coal Ash Policies Explored in New NARUC White Paper
WASHINGTON (February 4, 2020)—A new white paper commissioned by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners offers a comprehensive look at coal ash policies and challenges for utilities, state utility regulators, and other stakeholders related to its management and disposal.
Along with explaining coal ash, its components, and its environmental and health risks, A Comprehensive Survey of Coal Ash Law and Commercialization: Its Environmental Risks, Disposal Regulation, and Beneficial Use Markets explores the legacy of coal ash, reviews coal ash management and challenges for regulators and stakeholders and provides an overview of events leading to the regulatory drive to address the environmental risks of coal ash. The survey includes a detailed summary of recent developments in several states, including North Carolina and Georgia, and also discusses beneficial reuse markets for coal ash.
Using data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the report cites 478 plants that generate coal ash. Utility-owned coal ash impoundments can be found in 24 states across the country. In 2017, more than 100 million tons of coal ash were generated. Although 64 percent of coal ash is recycled, disposal of the remainder is still a concern for utilities and both environmental and utility regulators due to the environmental and public health threats and costs of potential coal ash spills, as have occurred in some states.
The costs of cleaning up decades of accumulated coal ash and complying with current regulations can run well into the billions of dollars, making the allocation and control of costs matters of primary concern for state utility regulators.
“Many states have either experienced significant environmental damages from recent coal ash incidents or are dealing with the substantial compliance costs of current EPA regulations,” said Commissioner Jeremy Oden of the Alabama Public Service Commission, chair of NARUC’s Subcommittee on Clean Coal and Carbon Management. “This report draws lessons from these states and helps situate state regulators to proactively manage their states’ legacy coal ash.”
“Coal ash presents a unique set of challenges for state utility regulators. By understanding the historic context of environmental regulation and options for managing coal ash, including beneficial reuse markets, state regulators can better manage costs and risks to customers,” said Danielle Sass Byrnett, director of NARUC’s Center for Partnerships & Innovation.The report, developed under the Carbon Capture Storage and Utilization Partnership between NARUC and the United States Department of Energy, was authored by Maria Seidler and Ken Malloy. To read the report, go to bit.ly/coalash2020. The authors will speak on an upcoming webinar, moderated by Commissioner Jeremy Oden, on Thursday, February 6. To register, go to bit.ly/coalashwebinar.
NARUC is a non-profit organization founded in 1889 whose members include the governmental agencies that are engaged in the regulation of utilities and carriers in the fifty States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. NARUC's member agencies regulate telecommunications, energy, and water utilities. NARUC represents the interests of State public utility commissions before the three branches of the Federal government.