The last time we visited the Environmental Protection Agency, its regulation-slaying head Scott Pruitt had resigned over “the unrelenting attacks” on him and his family, which “are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of” them.

As I suspected, the left’s victory over Pruitt was hollow. Acting EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler has directed the agency to ease Obama-era standards on the disposal of coal ash, a move expected to be the agency’s first revision of the standards.

The EPA states that the relaxed rules will save affected utility companies $28 to $31 million a year in regulatory costs.

“These amendments provide states and utilities much-needed flexibility in the management of coal ash, while ensuring human health and the environment are protected,” Wheeler said in a statement. “Our actions mark a significant departure from the one-size-fits-all policies of the past and save tens of millions of dollars in regulatory costs.”

…The EPA states there are 663 active ponds serving 321 plants and 286 active coal landfills serving 204 power plants. There are 111 additional “inactive ponds” that no longer accept waste.

Experts indicate that softened federal regulations governing coal ash disposal will not have any effect on the scope or pace of state and local efforts to eliminate storage basins for the waste product. An attorney for one North Carolina Company indicates that the process of handling coal-ash waste will remain environmentally responsible.

The EPA’s recent backtracking on its “Coal Combustion Residuals Rule” has no effect on requirements for Duke Energy to comply “with all other laws, including the Coal Ash Management Act and the federal Clean Water Act,” said Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center in Chapel Hill.

“The Trump Administration’s rollbacks of the standards in the CCR Rule have no effect on Duke Energy’s obligations to comply with the deadlines in the NC Coal Ash Management Act and Duke Energy’s obligation not to illegally discharge coal ash pollutants into groundwater, rivers, and lakes from its old, unlined, and leaking coal ash pits,” Holleman wrote in an email.

The EPA says the changes will let states address coal ash contamination on a case-by-case basis. The changes also allow state officials to suspend groundwater testing if they can show contaminants won’t migrate away from coal ash sites and could give them the ability to certify if a facility meets standards without a technical expert.

Environmental activists are taking the move with as much serenity and acceptance as you might expect.

“This indefensible gutting of our nation’s first-ever coal ash pollution control rule cements the shameful environmental legacy of the Trump Administration,” said Lisa Hallowell, a lawyer with the Environmental Integrity Project, a group co-founded by a former director of the agency’s office of civil enforcement.

As an added bonus, California’s #Resistance-embracing junior US Senator is accusing Wheeler of being….a climate change denier.

Now, this is change I can believe in!



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