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Environmental groups’ claims against seven AEP plants are unwarranted

by on August 31, 2010

An earthen dam at a coal ash pond at Amos Plant -- not among those noted in a report -- is shown above.

Story written by Rachel Hammer

Three environmental organizations Aug. 26 released a study claiming improper disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCRs) at 39 facilities in 21 states. Release of the report appears to have been timed to coincide with the public comment period and the first public meeting for proposed federal regulation of CCRs.

Speak Up!    AEP Seeks Your HelpAEP needs your help in telling U.S. EPA that regulation of coal combustion products as Subtitle D prime nonhazardous waste is the appropriate classification. Any other regulation will cost electricity customers billions of dollars, with little, if any, incremental environmental benefit. In the next few weeks, AEP will be asking you to contact U.S. EPA in support of classification under Subtitle D prime. Meanwhile, visit www.RegulateCoalAshRight.org for more information.

AEP facilities cited in the report are associated with Flint Creek Station in Arkansas; Northeastern Station in Oklahoma; Cardinal, Gavin and Muskingum River plants in Ohio; and Glen Lyn and Clinch River plants in Virginia.

CCRs are the non-combustible materials that remain after coal is burned. They include flyash, bottom ash and boiler slag. The bottom ash and boiler slag fall to the bottom of the boiler while more than 99 percent of flyash is captured by the electrostatic precipitator to keep it from being released to the air through the stack. The material produced by flue gas desulfurization (scrubber) systems also is considered CCR under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (U.S. EPA) proposed regulations.

“The tone and timing of this report seem to be part of an ongoing effort to pressure EPA to designate CCRs as hazardous waste,” said John McManus, vice president – Environmental Services. AEP is not opposed to the reasonable regulation of coal ash, especially in light of the December 2008 event at TVA’s Kingston Plant in Tennessee. CCRs should be regulated as nonhazardous waste and with state authority to implement and enforce compliance plans. Any other classification would lead to burdensome cost increases for our customers. In fact, over the past year, over two dozen state environmental, regulatory and transportation agencies have told U.S. EPA that a hazardous waste designation is unwarranted.

The Sierra Club, Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project sponsored the report. In February, these organizations released a comparable report citing 31 other facilities in 14 states.

The report is accurate in that all of the identified AEP facilities have experienced compliance concerns at some time. What the report doesn’t explain well is that AEP has been working diligently with state environmental agencies to address concerns with additional monitoring, remediation work or other activities at the sites. These situations, some of which occurred more than 40 years ago, now are generally stable. None of the situations present an immediate threat to groundwater quality and no negative health impacts have been associated with the sites.

AEP is working with the Electric Power Research Institute and the Utility Solid Waste Activity Group to address the alleged “damage cases” in written comments to U.S. EPA relative to the proposed regulations.

Recycled coal ash is used in variety of beneficial purposes, including asphalt in road-building.

Collected CCRs can be carefully managed in permitted storage facilities or sold for beneficial use. AEP typically sells approximately 40 percent of the CCRs it produces each year for use as structural fill, in building products such as concrete, and for ice and snow control.   In June, the U.S. EPA proposed three options for classification of CCRs and is accepting public comment on those options through November 19. Public hearings are scheduled to be held in seven cities over the next month. The options are:

  • Classification as hazardous waste under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C;
  • Classification as nonhazardous waste under Subtitle D; and
  • Classification as nonhazardous waste under Subtitle D prime.

 

 Subtitle D and Subtitle D prime differ in the handling of existing storage facilities. Subtitle D prime allows existing facilities that are safe to continue to operate for the remainder of their useful lives.

AEP supports federal regulation of CCR under the Subtitle D prime option because it:

  • Poses the lowest impact on customers’ electric bills and the least economic impact on areas working hard toward financial recovery;
  • Focuses any needed environmental remediation only on sites that are having real environmental impacts;
  • Provides states with authority to address compliance at individual sites and provides the greatest storage flexibility at the lowest cost, and
  • Allows continued beneficial use of coal ash, keeping hundreds of million of tons of coal ash out of hazardous waste disposal sites and minimizing land requirements for that purpose.

From → News From AEP

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