The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a date for this year to make final disposal rules for coal ash as a nonhazardous waste material.

A consent decree emerging from a lawsuit coal combustion products (CCP) companies and others filed against the EPA and delivered to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia set Dec. 19 as the date the EPA will act on its revision of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle D regulations pertaining to coal combustion residuals.

Coal combustion products maker Headwaters Inc., South Jordan, Utah, applauded the event in a news release, saying it will provide regulatory certainty for coal ash as a nonhazardous material. “We are pleased that EPA is committing to finalize its proposed upgraded standards for coal ash disposal under Subtitle D, the non-hazardous waste section of RCRA,” said Kirk Benson, Headwaters chairman and CEO.

Headwaters sued the EPA in 2012 to force a deadline for completing coal ash disposal regulations that were initially proposed in 2010. The proposed regulations created regulatory uncertainty that has hampered the beneficial use of coal combustion products, the firm said. The district court agreed with Headwaters and ordered the EPA to propose a date by which it would finalize revised coal ash disposal rules.

In the consent decree the parties also agreed to not appeal the court’s order.

“We previously reported that EPA said that alignment of new CCP impoundment water standards with proposed CCP disposal rules ‘could provide strong support for a conclusion that regulation of coal combustion products under RCRA Subtitle D would be adequate.’ “ Benson said. “It now appears almost certain that EPA will move forward with Subtitle D nonhazardous waste regulations.”

It is possible that Congress could amend RCRA and require states to enforce federal Subtitle D nonhazardous waste standards for coal ash disposal under state-issued permits. These permits could improve the overall management of coal ash disposal if enacted, Headwaters said.

“In either the legislative or the regulatory approach, the prospect of an unwarranted and damaging ‘hazardous waste’ designation for disposed coal ash is eliminated and the regulatory uncertainty removed,” Benson said. “Regulatory certainty will help us grow the beneficial use of coal ash – safely keeping the material out of disposal facilities, creating economic and environmental value.”