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EPA given 60 days to schedule coal-ash rule

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A federal judge on Tuesday gave the Obama administration 60 days to come up with a schedule for finalizing its long-delayed new rules on the handling and disposal of toxic coal ash from power plants.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to come up with a concrete timeline for its review and revisions to coal-ash regulations.

Walton ruled in a case brought by the law group Earthjustice on behalf of Appalachian Voices and a variety of other coalfield citizen groups and environmental organizations.

"The decision by this federal court to put the EPA on a schedule for finalizing federal coal ash regulations is a victory for the communities and neighborhoods living next to these toxic sites," the citizen groups said in a statement. "Federal protection is long overdue."

EPA promised the first-ever federal regulations on the handling and disposal of coal ash years ago, following the December 2008 collapse of a coal-ash impoundment in Tennessee.

When it issued a proposal for coal-ash rules in June 2010, EPA did not settle on a specific plan. Instead, the agency sought public comments on one approach that would regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste, with nationwide regulations, oversight and enforcement, and an alternative that would leave actual regulation mostly up to the states.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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