Kentucky Chamber member testifies on potential costly coal ash regulations

From the Legislative Research Commission:

FRANKFORT—Proposed changes to federal rules governing the disposal of coal ash—the material left after coal is burned for electricity—will cost Kentucky’s electric utilities at least $1.2 billion over 10 years, an LG&E/KU executive told a state legislative committee today.

John Voyles, who is vice president of transmission and generation services at LG&E/KU, told the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment that the cost to comply with the proposed coal ash regulatory changes, combined with other proposed or new federal Environmental Protection Agency rules, will cost the LG&E/KU alone approximately $4 billion over 10 years.

Some estimate the total cost of current EPA regulatory changes to Kentucky’s regulated utilities could run between $6 billion to $8 billion over the 10-year period, Committee co-chair Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, said.

A draft rule governing disposal of the ash, or coal combustion residuals (CCR), is expected in late 2012 or early 2013, with compliance expected within five years of final rule approval, Voyles said. Changes would likely require “dry,” or landfill, storage of ash and closing of ash ponds where a percentage of “wet” coal ash is stored.

There are currently 43 coal ash ponds statewide, according to Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection Commissioner Bruce Scott.

Scott said although the federal EPA proposed regulating CCR as a hazardous waste initially, all 50 states want the ash to be regulated as a non-hazardous waste.

“A lot of folks, including ourselves, believe the material has a lot of value … in re-use,” said Scott. If CCR were labeled as hazardous waste, it could create problems in industries where the ash is reused, including the manufacture of materials like wallboard and concrete.

Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, who is a co-chair of the committee, said coal ash is also used for composting in Europe. “It’s sought after and used over there because it cuts … in half the bioconversion (time),” Smith said.

Gooch said there are many beneficial uses of coal ash. “When we burn coal, we do emit carbon—we all recognize that—but when you (make) concrete, that is also a process that emits a lot of carbon,” he said. “So, by using this process that’s already gone through the carbon emission, you can actually save the carbon that would be emitted through the concrete process.”

Coal ash is commonly used to replace cement in concrete production, according to testimony on coal ash management from Kentucky Chamber member Danny Gray of Charah, Inc. of Louisville. Gray said replacing cement with ash reduces carbon dioxide emissions.

Legislation is now pending in the U.S. Senate that would essentially require CCR to be treated as non-hazardous, municipal landfill waste, Scott explained. The proposed legislation has the support of Kentucky and other state governments, he said. Scott added that it is highly likely that state action will be required to comply with any new CCR rule.

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