News and Events Involving Environmental Law, Published by Chicago Environmental Attorney Dave Scriven-Young
of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. -- (312) 881-6309

New Illinois Law Regulates Coal Ash Surface Impoundments

On July 30, 2019, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law Senate Bill 9, which places strict regulations on surface impoundments that are designed to hold an accumulation of coal combustion residue (“CCR”), commonly known as coal ash.  The term CCR encompasses fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag, and flue gas desulfurization materials generated from burning coal for the purpose of generating electricity by electric utilities and independent power producers.  Surface impoundments are typically natural topographic depressions, man-made excavations, or diked areas, which are designed to hold an accumulation of CCR and liquids for treatment, storage, or disposal of CCR.

This legislation resulted from well-publicized alleged discharges of coal ash from the Midwest Generation Powerton Electrical Plant in Pekin, Illinois, which was recently cited for groundwater contamination by the Illinois Pollution Control Board.  The Pollution Control Board found that Midwest Generation caused or allowed the discharge of coal ash constituents in groundwater.  The Board also found that the company violated state regulations by depositing coal ash cinders directly upon the land and creating a water pollution hazard. 

The new law takes several steps to prevent discharges from CCR surface impoundments:

  • Prohibits discharge of any contaminants from a CCR surface impoundment into the environment,
  • Prohibits the construction, installation, modification, operation, or closure of any CCR surface impoundment without a permit granted by the Illinois EPA,
  • Prohibits causing or allowing the discharge, deposit, injection, dumping, spilling, leaking, or placement of any CCR upon the land in a place and manner to cause a violation of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act,
  • Requires that the owner of a CCR surface impoundment submit a Closure Plan to the Illinois EPA prior to beginning closure of the surface impoundment,
  • Requires the Illinois Pollution Control Board to adopt rules establishing construction permit requirements, operating permit requirements, design standards, reporting, financial assurance, and closure and post-closure care requirements for CCR surface impoundments,
  • Requires that the owner of a CCR surface impoundment have a publicly available website to report the volume or weight of the CCR that is sold or provided during the last twelve months as well as all closure plans, permit applications, and supporting documentation, and
  • Requires that the owner/operator of a CCR surface impoundment pay an initial and annual fee to the Illinois EPA.

The sponsors of the new law hope that these new regulations will promote a healthful environment, including clean water, air, and land, meaningful public involvement, and a responsible disposal and storage of CCR, so as to protect public health and to prevent pollution of the environment.

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