Mullin Leads Resolution to Strike Down Burdensome EPA Ruling, Protect our Power Grid

Today, U.S. Senator Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) led 10 of his colleagues in introducing a resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn Biden’s Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) final rule that imposes retroactive, costly, and overreaching regulations on coal ash management at inactive coal-fired power plants.

CCR, commonly referred to as coal ash, are created when coal is burned to produce electricity and either disposed of in surface impoundments (ponds) or landfills or reused. On May 8th, 2024, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized their retroactive coal ash management rule that sidestepped congressional intent by not establishing a risk-based and state-led program in accordance with a 2016 amendment to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Instead, the rule drastically expands EPA’s jurisdiction to all coal ash ponds ever used while requiring ratepayers to pay for capping the majority of the ponds. The rule goes into effect Nov. 4, 2024, and requires extensive new groundwater monitoring, corrective action, closure, site security, applicability documentation, and post-closure care requirements. Currently, there are 36 states with affected entities, including Oklahoma.

Senator Mullin, Ranking Member of the Chemical Safety, Waste Management, Environmental Justice, and Regulatory Oversight Subcommittee on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), is joined by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Barrasso (R-WY), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Mike Braun (R-IN), Katie Britt (R-AL), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Tim Scott (R-SC), and John Hoeven (R-ND) on this resolution. Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA-09) introduced the companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The Biden administration’s sweeping effort to close power plants across the country is jeopardizing dispatchable generation, ignoring site specific conditions and risk, and superseding congressional intent,” said Sen. Mullin. “Once again, the Biden EPA is imposing one-size-fits-all rules that are ineffective and costly to the American taxpayer. This overreach only further contributes to our grid’s increasing vulnerability to disruptions, especially during emergencies. Unfortunately, these rules are made under the guise of “climate change” yet are more harmful to the environment than existing law when sites that have already been deemed safe to human health and the environment will have to be drug across the country for relocation,” Sen. Mullin continued. “There is no world where the EPA should have the ability to sidestep state-run sites complying with congressional intent. I want to thank my colleagues for joining me on this effort, and I look forward to challenging the EPA on yet another abuse of authority.”

“The finalized coal combustion residuals rule is one more example of President Biden’s barrage of regulations targeting coal plants, putting energy workers across the country out of work, and threatening America’s electric reliability. The EPW Committee continues to lead the charge against the EPA’s harmful environmental and energy overreach, and I appreciate Senator Mullin for introducing the CRA resolution of disapproval today,” EPW Committee Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito said.

“President Biden continues his relentless attack on coal communities in Wyoming and across America. This latest one-size-fits all rule completely ignores decades of successful work from state-led initiatives,” said Sen. Barrasso. “Biden’s EPA wants to handcuff one of America’s most affordable and reliable sources of electricity while significantly raising costs on hardworking taxpayers. The coal industry in Wyoming deserves clear rules, not more misguided and punishing Washington regulations.”

“Once again the Biden administration is sticking its nose where it does not belong,” said Sen. Lummis. “Wyoming and other states that use coal are already leading the way with innovative solutions for coal ash. The last thing the Cowboy State needs is radical activist bureaucrats in Washington trying to force another costly one-size fits all mandate to solve a problem that does not exist.”

“The Biden EPA’s Coal Combustion Residuals rule would force Hoosiers and facilities in Indiana to incur the costs for their new regulations on legacy ash sites. This rule will impact nearly 300 facilities across the country and 39 in Indiana alone. I’m proud to join Sen. Mullin stop this one-size-fits-all regulation from going into effect,” said Sen. Braun.

“The Coal Combustion Residuals rule is classic bureaucratic overreach,” said Sen. Ricketts. “It’s another one-size-fits-all power grab from EPA that will force local communities to pay for unworkable policies. I’m grateful to join Senator Mullin’s effort to block it.”

Mullin’s CRA is supported by the following groups: National Mining Association (NMA), American Electric Power (AEP), National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA), American Public Power Association (APPA), Great River Energy, America’s Power, Appalachian Power Co., Public Service Company of OK, Buckeye Power and Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, and the Rainbow Energy Center.

“Buckeye Power and Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives support Senator Mullin’s resolution to overturn this unreasonable EPA rule,” said Pat O’Loughlin, Buckeye Power president and CEO. “Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) is a non-hazardous waste and the new Rule is more strict than current hazardous waste regulations. This one-size fits all requirement to power plant operators is wasteful and dangerous. This rule would mean millions of dollars in investment for our cooperative members, resulting in much higher costs for electricity consumers, with no environmental benefit. Historically, the EPA encouraged environmentally responsible beneficial use of CCR on-site, as well as the off-site sales to construction and agricultural industries. Now the EPA wants to change the rules. This is a direct attack on coal plants that hurts cooperative members, and all consumers of electricity.”

“This unworkable EPA rule will seriously disrupt operations at many power plants, undermining the reliability of the nation’s electric grid,” said Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “Its excessive, one-size-fits-all requirements drastically exceed the agency’s statutory authority and should be overturned. We thank Sen. Mullin and Rep. Griffith for their efforts to reverse this unlawful rule.”

Bloomberg Government carried the exclusive on this introduction. Click here to read.

Background:

  • In 2015, the EPA, for the first time, designated disposed coal ash as a non-hazardous waste under Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and allowed states to create monitoring programs.
  • In 2016, President Obama signed the Water Infrastructure for Improvements to the Nation (WIIN) Act into law that authorized state-approved permitting programs to regulate coal ash disposal by amending RCRA
  • In 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued an opinion prompting removal of a provision exempting legacy CCR units from the rule (Utility Solid Waste Activities Group v. EPA).
  • In Nov. 2022, the EPA issued their first CCR unit closure extension denial for the Gavin Plant in OH, after only providing the plant 135 days to comply.
  • In Jan. 2023, in response to the denials, industry challenged EPAs reinterpretation of their coal ash regulations arguing it conflicted with the Administrative Procedures Act (Electric Energy v. USEPA).
  • On May 8, 2024, the EPA issued the final CRR rule, ultimately expanding federal authority to all inactive surface impoundments at inactive electric utilities and legacy CCR management units prior to 2015.
  • The EPA’s affected entity locations: AK, AL, AR, AZ, CO, DE, FL, GA, IA, IN, IL, KS, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, NM, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WI, WV, WY.

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