Summary: H.R.1734 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed House amended (07/22/2015)

Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act of 2015

(Sec. 2) This bill amends subtitle D (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976) of the Solid Waste Disposal Act to establish a permit program for coal combustion residuals (coal ash) that states may elect to administer. The program outlines the criteria that a state must use if it chooses to adopt and enforce a permit program regulating the management and disposal of coal ash generated by electric utilities and independent power producers. The program applies to the disposal of coal ash into landfills or surface impoundments, sand or gravel pits, quarries, or lateral expansions of the structures. The structural criteria concern: (1) design, location, and integrity; (2) financial assurance; (3) groundwater and surface water protections; (4) closure procedures; and (5) air quality with respect to fugitive dust.

In order to adopt or implement a permit program, the lead state implementing agency must maintain a program for control of hazardous waste disposal in open dumps or an authorized state hazardous waste program under the Solid Waste Disposal Act. The implementing agency must ensure that certain information concerning the program is publicly available.

A state that chooses to adopt a coal ash program is given sole enforcement authority. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must implement a program for a state if: (1) a state's program fails to meet those criteria, or (2) a state does not implement a program. A coal ash permit program implemented by the EPA shall not apply to the utilization, placement, and storage of coal ash at surface or underground coal mining and reclamation operations.

Certain uses of coal ash are not considered as receipt of such material for purposes of this bill. These include uses for engineered structural fill, storage in a manner consistent with the management of raw materials, and such beneficial uses as substitution for virgin material (in which case the use must be shown to not result in environmental releases greater than those from a material or product that would be used instead of the coal ash or exceed relevant benchmarks for human and ecological receptors).

The bill revises implementation of the EPA rule governing the disposal of coal ash, entitled "Hazardous and Solid Waste Management System; Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities." The rule may be implemented only through the permit program established by the bill.