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March 3, 2018

EPA proposes rollbacks to Obama-era pollution rules for coal ash waste, air pollution from oil and gas drilling


The Environmental Protection Agency announced significant changes Thursday to Obama-era regulations governing air pollution from oil and gas operations and coal ash waste. States and utilities would have more freedom in how they dispose of such wastes, but detractors say the revisions would lead to a dirtier environment and could be hazardous to human health.

"The announcement came on the eve of a deadline for utilities to release reports documenting coal-ash contamination of water supplies at hundreds of power plants across the United States. The pollution reports were intended as a first step toward cleaning up the contamination leaking from the ash pits," Michael Biesecker and Matthew Brown report for The Associated Press.

"The EPA also proposed amending rules to give state regulators more authority over how utilities dispose of the ash left behind when coal is burned to generate electricity. The gray ash, typically dumped near coal-fired power plants in unlined pits, contains toxic heavy metals such as lead and arsenic that over time can leach into groundwater or nearby rivers, potentially contaminating sources of drinking water," Biesecker and Brown report.

Another part of the Obama-era standards were aimed at reducing the amount of methane and volatile organic compounds released from oil and gas drilling operations. Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, and VOCs can aggravate respiratory ailments and lead to early death. The agency said the proposed changes will save utilities $100 million per year, and oil and gas operations up to $16 million by 2035.

The EPA said it will accept public comment on the proposed changes for 45 days, and will hold a public hearing.

Written by Heather Chapman 


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