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Don’t be an ash: Court says coal companies must follow state regulations

 Miami Fort Power Station in North Bend, Ohio
Wikimedia Commons
Miami Fort Power Station in North Bend, Ohio

This month, a Columbus appeals court told the Ohio Utility Group — a collection of regional coal companies — that they have to follow Ohio EPA regulations when it comes to the industrial waste they produce.

The Ohio Utility Group had claimed state coal ash regulations were unlawful and unreasonable because they are more protective than federal ones.

Coal fired power plants produce ash as a byproduct, which can contain up to seventeen toxic heavy metals including lead, mercury, and cadmium, all of which can endanger human health.

In Ohio, the state EPA requires coal companies to monitor the groundwater around their power plants for coal ash, and to close down the plants if certain levels of ash are found in that water. The OEPA also requires that the liners used to hold the coal ash byproduct meet set design criteria.

The companies in the utility group said those Ohio requirements are more stringent than federal regulations, but the Tenth District Court of Appeals determined that the state’s regulations protect the environment and state residents from the negative effects of coal ash, which means the Ohio EPA has a factual basis for adopting the regulations.

An Ohio EPA spokesperson said the following about the ruling:

“Ohio EPA is pleased with the Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals’ favorable decision in Zimmer Power Co., et. al. v. Director of Ohio EPA, upholding ERAC’s decision affirming the Director’s action and granting Summary Judgment to Ohio EPA.”

The Ohio Utility Group could not be reached for comment by publication.

Chris Welter is the Managing Editor at The Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Chris got his start in radio in 2017 when he completed a six-month training at the Center for Community Voices. Most recently, he worked as a substitute host and the Environment Reporter at WYSO.