Saturday, May 15, 2010

Coal ash ponds affected by EPA decision

Energybiz Insider put out an analysis of EPA's options on dealing with coal ash ponds and concludes that they will "opt for more incremental changes, choosing to toughen disposal standards and to let the states maintain their leadership role."

Coal ash is the waste product from burning coal for electric power generation. The ash is either a liquid stored in large surface impoundments or a solid that goes into landfills. EPA proposes to phase out the liquid ponds over five years. There are two coal ash impoundments in Arizona - one in Willcox [right, pond at AEPCO's Apache Generating Station] and one at the Cholla power plant near Holbrook.

But EPA is considering regulating coal ash as a hazardous material, rather than as a nonhazardous byproduct. The difference will mean nearly a billion dollars in costs to the electric utilities in disposing the ash.

About 54 million tons of coal ash are currently recycled into concrete, cement, and wallboard which keeps those volumes out of landfills. EPA wants to allow this practice to continue. Ash from the Apache Generating Station was used in construction of the Federal Building in downtown Tucson.

Energybiz concludes that President Obama has many other high profile issues on his plate and will avoid the big fight over this one.

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