EPA to Ease Restrictions on How Coal Plants Store Toxic Waste: Report

Photo: Stephanie Keithe (Getty)

In his ongoing quest to become a mustache-twirling eco-villain, Donald Trump plans to start rolling back Obama-era EPA safeguards on Monday regarding how coal powerplants store their toxic waste according to multiple reports.

As part of an initiative to protect local waterways in 2015, the Obama administration strengthened regulations affecting how these plants dispose and store contaminated water and “coal ash,” that sludgy byproduct coal plants produce where you can find a potentially poisonous concoction of arsenic, mercury, and heavy metals.

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Now the EPA plans to relax requirements these rules put in place and exempt many plants from having to enact them at all, sources familiar with the matter told the New York Times. EPA Administrator and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler told the Washington Post that the Obama-era rules “placed heavy burdens on electricity producers across the country.”

Companies have also complained requirements like lining coal ash ponds to keep them from leaking contaminants into nearby groundwater and adopting better waste management technology are prohibitively expensive to abide by. No doubt because coal is becoming prohibitively expensive itself compared to other renewable resources. And why would any business want to use its hard-earned money on something as frivolous as potable water?

Coal plants now have until August 2020 to stop dumping coal ash into unlined storage ponds, though they can ask for more time to safely dispose this waste or retrofit existing ponds with extensions ranging from 90 days to three years, the Washington Post reported. If a company meets other conditions such as shutting down a coal boiler, that extension can jump to as long as eight years.

A frequent champion of the coal industry, Trump has been systematically rolling back Obama-era regulations since taking office while also touting it as a more affordable energy source. At the time, the Obama administration projected its regulations could prevent roughly 1.4 billion pounds of toxic waste from leaking into local waterways. These kinds of pollutants affect more than 1 million Americans who live within three miles of a coal plant according to EPA estimates.

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About the author

Alyse Stanley

Gizmodo weekend editor. Freelance video game reporter. Full-time disaster bi.