The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working on giving states more flexibility in complying with former President Barack Obama’s regulations targeting coal ash disposal.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is working on creating “guidance” for states to set up their own programs to dispose of coal ash, as well as find beneficial uses for the byproduct. Critics believe the change would allow states to water down the full thrust of the Obama-era rules.
“EPA expects that its new guidance will allow for the safe disposal and continued beneficial use of coal ash, while enabling states to decide what works best for their environment,” Pruitt wrote Monday in a letter to several states.
Coal ash is a byproduct that manufacturers use to produce dry wall, bricks and concrete. Energy analysts and conservatives argue Obama’s coal ash regulations are an aspect of the former president’s “war on coal” because of the high cost associated with complying with the rule.
“EPA continues to support the environmentally sound recycling of coal ash,” Pruitt said, adding that enforcement for the rules must be put in the hands of state regulators, or “those who best know the needs of local communities.”
Pruitt’s move to lessen the restrictive rules comes less than a week after a federal court agreed to President Donald Trump’s request to pause litigation over the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which was intended to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.
The Circuit Court did not issue a decision on the legality of the rule, which was stayed by the Supreme Court last year. Obama crafted the rule chiefly to address carbon emissions that some scientists believe are causing man-made global warming
Government lawyers asked to pause the case in March in response to Trump’s executive order instructing federal agencies to reconsider Obama’s climate policies. Activists urged the court to reject the request.
Trump’s judicial victory over the CPP is part of a rousing fight the president has waged against Obama’s rules. Trump also recently signed a bill to repeal an Obama-era stream regulation that critics say would have locked up 64 percent of U.S. coal reserves.
Trump made nixing his predecessor’s environmental rules a pillar of his presidential campaign.
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