A massive North Carolina coal waste spill into a major river is increasing pressure on the Obama administration to start policing the more than 1,000 such waste storage sites across the nation.
The federal government doesn’t regulate the disposal of “coal ash,” the dustlike material that’s left over when pulverized coal is burned to fuel electrical power plants. Pennsylvania leads the nation in coal ash production, followed by Texas, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.
Coal ash can contain toxic materials such as arsenic and selenium, but the Environmental Protection Agency has left it to the states to decide what rules to put in place. The result has been an inconsistent patchwork of regulations that the EPA acknowledges is full of gaps.
The agency promises to come out with long-delayed rules by the end of the year, but it’s likely to leave the enforcement in the hands of the states.