EPA Considers Coal Ash Regulations

Federal regulators will consider tightening the restrictions on coal power plants. This could have a significant impact on Texas as the state with the most coal plants in the nation. Laurie Johnson reports.

There are 20 coal plants in Texas, with a dozen more in various stages of permitting. One of the largest in the country is in Fort Bend County.

Burning coal to produce energy also produces coal ash, a waste product that's considered toxic. Right now the federal government does not regulateĀ its disposal. But Matthew Tejada with Air Alliance Houston says the EPA is considering changing that.

"We don't know a whole lot about how we regulate coal ash in Texas. And that's one of the reasons why not just for this rule, but for a lot of rules that the EPA is going through right now, why a lot of environmental groups are excited about them, even when the rules aren't as strong as we'd like them to be, because they're at least raising the floor that a state like Texas is going to have to come up to."

A lot of coal ash is recycled and used for things like road construction or cinder blocks. But that accounts for less than half the coal ash produced in the country. This is Zach Trahan with Texas Campaign for the Environment.

"We've got clearly defined laws that say you can't just dump toxic waste anywhere. But right now coal ash is exempt from those laws and it's just treated like just a normal waste. And the EPA is considering whether to stay with what they've been doing or whether to strengthen it and change it so it's treated like other hazardous and toxic substances."

The EPA will hold one hearing in Texas on the subject of coal ash. It will be held in Dallas on September 8th.
Laurie Johnson. KUHF News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...