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Utility Solid Waste Activities Group v. Environmental Protection Agency

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20151
Nos. 15-1219, (D.C. Cir., 08/21/2018)

The D.C. Circuit granted in part environmental groups' petition challenging EPA's 2015 rule governing the disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCRs) produced by electric utilities and independent power plants. The groups argued that the rule unlawfully disregarded significant risks of harmful leakage by allowing unlined impoundments and clay-lined impoundments to continue receiving CCRs. The court agreed, concluding that the Agency's approach of relying on leak detection followed by closure was arbitrary and contrary to RCRA because it did not address the identified health and environmental harms documented in the record. The groups further challenged the Agency's exemption of legacy ponds—inactive surface impoundments at inactive power plants—from regulation. The court agreed, concluding that the rule paid little attention to the substantial health and environmental risks posed by these ponds and that the Agency's stated reason for its reactive, rather than preventative, approach was not supported by the record. The court therefore vacated and remanded these provisions of the rule.