Frequent Questions about Location Restrictions and Implementing the Final Rule Regulating the Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR)

EPA has received many questions about implementing the final CCR disposal rule. The Agency is developing responses to these questions and will be posting them to this Web page periodically.

The questions and responses below fall under the category of location restrictions:

  • When EPA proposed the application of location restrictions to existing surface impoundments, you acknowledged that these location restrictions would force a majority of the current impoundments to close. Do you have an estimate of how many will close?

    The final CCR rule contains five location restrictions that apply to new CCR units and selectively to existing CCR units. These restrictions include: (1) disposal within five feet of the uppermost aquifer; (2) disposal in wetlands; (3) disposal in unstable areas, including karst areas; (4) disposal near active fault zones; and (5) disposal in seismic impact zones. In addition, the current subtitle D regulation (40 CFR 257.3-1) that applied to these units before the final rule was issued already restricts facilities that dispose of wastes in floodplains. For fault areas, seismic impact zones, and unstable areas (using karst areas as a proxy) the EPA's Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) projected that 51 of the 1045 waste management units would be subject to the location restrictions resulting in an estimated 26 waste management units closing and safely relocating off-site. The remaining waste management units are expected to make certifications either that they are not subject to these three location restrictions or that their continued operation in these areas is protective.

    EPA did not have sufficient data to evaluate the number of waste management units subject to the restrictions against disposal units located within five feet of the uppermost aquifer or in wetlands. However, in contrast to the proposed rule, the final rule allows owners or operators to certify that a waste management unit meets an alternate performance standard, even if it cannot meet the requirement in the proposed rule to demonstrate that it is five feet above the water table. Similarly, EPA notes that under the wetlands criterion, owners or operators have the option of purchasing offsets instead of closing existing units. Both the depth to groundwater and wetland location standards offer protective workable alternatives that facilities will have the option to consider. For these reasons, EPA does not believe that many (if any) facilities will close their waste management units in response to the location restrictions. 

  • What sort of reliability issues could be imposed on the electric grid as a result of the CCR final rule?

    Electricity market impacts presented in Appendix X of EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis(RIA) were conducted using the Integrated Planning Model (IPM) and include the location restriction costs of the rule as discussed above. The results of this analysis show that there will be a negligible impact to the electric market.

When new implementation questions are posted, the Agency will identify them with a icon located next to the question. The complete list of these questions and responses will also be updated each time new questions are posted.