In a statement to The Associated Press, the EPA declined to provide a timetable for a ruling on the regulation. The agency said it won’t act until it reviews information about ash and some 450,000 public comments gathered in 2010 at hearings around the country.
Coal industry supporters and businesses that use the coal ash have argued that the substance is not dangerous, and the metals contained in the ash are found in low concentrations.
“There’s more mercury in your compact fluorescent light bulbs than coal ash but we don’t call them toxic,” said John Ward, chairman of the pro-coal ash group Citizens for Recycling First.
Hoping to spur EPA action, a large coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit April 5 in federal court in Washington, D.C., exhorting a judge to compel the government agency to rule on coal ash. The groups from several states, including Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Illinois and Montana, also want a judge to declare the EPA in violation of a federal law that requires the agency to upgrade environmental regulations periodically.
They say in the suit that coal ash is “one of the largest and most toxic solid waste streams in the nation,” and regulations have not been updated since the early 1980s.
The EPA said in its statement to AP that it is reviewing the lawsuit and “will respond as appropriate.”