U.S. EPA denies Alabama’s coal ash permit application

May 27, 2024
The U.S. EPA has denied an Alabama coal ash permit program application due in part to it not meeting or exceeding federal standards.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on May 23, 2024, its final decision to deny Alabama’s application to run a federally approved state permit program to manage coal ash landfills and impoundments.

The EPA is issuing a denial because the state’s permit program is significantly less protective of people and waterways than federal law requires.

Federal law requires protective requirements for public health and the environmental coal ash units across the country. The EPA can approve a state to implement a federally authorized coal ash permit program only if the state provides an equivalent or greater level or protection as federal law.

Under federal regulations, coal ash units cannot be closed in a way that allows coal ash to continue to spread contamination in groundwater after closure. Alabama’s coal ash permit program does not require that groundwater contamination be adequately addressed during the closure of the coal ash units.

The EPA reviewed Alabama’s coal ash permits and found that the permits were significantly less protective than federal law.

The EPA specifically identified deficiencies in Alabama’s permits with closure requirements for unlined surface impoundments, groundwater monitoring networks and corrective action requirements. The EPA discussed these issues with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, however the state agency has not revised its permits or supplemented its application to demonstrate how such permits are as protective as the federal requirements.

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