Despite decision, coal ash regs still up in the air

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A federal judge ruled on a lawsuit filed in April 2012 by environmental and public health groups arguing that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) challenging the EPA's lack of federal regulations for the disposal of coal ash.

The TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill. Credit: Brian Stansberry/Wikimedia Commons

The order of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia decision marks the first step toward federally enforceable safeguards, monitoring, and protections against coal ash, according to the coalition filing the lawsuit, which includes the Chesapeake Climate Action Network in Maryland, Earthjustice, Sierra Club, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

However, a case in which the EPA never finalized its rulemaking could turn the situation in the opposite direction. In this case, a spill at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, Tennessee, which dumped one billion gallons of coal ash over 300 acres led, in May 2010, to the EPA proposing the first federal regulations for coal ash disposal. The agency never finalized that rulemaking, though, leading to the possibility legislation that would prevent the EPA from setting federal regulations.

"We turned to the courts to force the EPA to set long overdue protections from this toxic menace. This decision marks the first step towards federally enforceable safeguards from coal ash," the coalition said in a statement. "…we hope the EPA will finally adopt regulations that protect all nearby communities."

The U.S. District Court Order offered few details about the timing or substance of the EPA's rulemaking, leaving the regulations up in the air for now. Specifics will be available within 30 days. The Order did deny one of the coalition's claims regarding testing procedures for coal ash contamination.

For more:
- see the Order

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