Prior to joining the EPA as second-in-command of the agency in April this year, Wheeler was a lobbyist with Faegre Baker Daniels consulting, where one of his clients was Murray Energy, “the country’s largest underground coal mining company.” According to his recusal statement, he also represented a number of other energy companies, including Energy Fuels Resources Inc, Growth Energy, and Xcel Energy. In that statement, Wheeler said he would abstain from participating in any decisions involving former clients for the next two years.
According to the petition, the rule resulted “in significant economic and operational impacts to coal-fired power generation,” claiming that it was such a burden that “the economic viability of coal-fired power plants is jeopardized.”
In a statement from the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, Roewer said “this action provides the regulatory certainty needed to make investment decisions to ensure compliance and the continued protection of health and the environment.”
The EPA said more of the previously proposed changes to the 2015 coal ash rules will be addressed later, and additional changes will be proposed, as well.
Environmental advocates said the new rules are a gift to industry.
“This administration is granting the wishes of the lobbyists and the lawyers for the coal ash utilities and is turning its back on the families and communities across America that are suffering the consequences of primitive coal ash disposal,” said Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Historically, when coal was burned, plants would send the ash out of smokestacks, creating dark plumes of smoke. Now, scrubbers and filters collect much of the ash. It may not escape into the air anymore, but it does have to go somewhere. Traditionally, power plants mixed the leftover ash with water and sluiced it into unlined pits, where the ash would settle to the bottom.
Sometimes, these ponds were dug into the groundwater table — water that can be pulled up by private drinking wells, or that eventually makes its way into drinking water. Many of these sites also sit along the banks of rivers, lakes and streams, separating waste from waters with nothing more than earthen banks.
“Millions of tons of industrial waste directly on the banks of major drinking water reservoirs that serve hundreds of thousands of people,” he said, “that’s a recipe for disaster.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Jim Roewer’s last name.
News credit : Cnn