July 24--A bill working its way through Congress would give power to states to regulate coal ash waste, but even if the bill becomes law, it wouldn't change anything about the closing of Little Blue Run.
Little Blue, the largest coal ash impoundment in the country, has been ordered to be closed by the end of 2016. The site straddles the border of Greene Township, Beaver County, and Hancock County, W.Va.
FirstEnergy Corp., the company that owns the site, is seeking other options for coal ash disposal.
The bill passed the House of Representatives this week, but President Barack Obama has threatened a veto if it gets to his desk. Obama has said the bill takes control from the federal Environmental Protection Agency in terms of regulating how states dispose of coal ash.
Stephanie Walton, a FirstEnergy spokeswoman, didn't say the company supports the legislation moving through Congress, but she did say it "builds on and improves EPA's regulation by empowering states and the EPA to implement and enforce" current rules.
The EPA in December issued new federal guidelines for the disposal of coal ash, guidelines that must be met by October. It was the first time the federal government attempted to tackle the issue of safely disposing of coal ash.
The new bill would roll back or delay many of the regulations in the EPA's new guidelines, which set new safety standards by requiring companies to line coal ash impoundments with an impervious liner to contain any potential leaks.
The EPA guidelines also set rules for how close a coal ash impoundment can be to a water source.
For now, Walton said nothing has changed regarding plans to close Little Blue.
"FirstEnergy remains focused on meeting the EPA regulation, which takes effect in October, in addition to existing state requirements," she said. "The bill passed by the House would have no effect on plans to close Little Blue Run. The company will cease using the facility in December 2016 and is exploring alternate disposal or reuse opportunities."
The legislation is in the early stages of debate in the Senate.
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