EPA denies Alabama coal ash program in latest crackdown

By Miranda Willson | 05/24/2024 01:38 PM EDT

EPA cited a “pattern of deficiencies” with the state’s oversight of coal waste.

EPA headquarters.

EPA headquarters in Washington. Francis Chung/POLITICO

The Biden administration has denied Alabama’s coal ash management program, citing a “pattern of deficiencies” with the state’s oversight of the waste that contains a suite of toxic chemicals.

The EPA decision is the latest sign that the agency is trying to crack down on coal ash, the solid, sooty byproduct of burning coal. Last month, the agency finalized a new coal ash regulation that could force electric utilities to close and clean up a host of ash sites that have released contaminants into groundwater.

Congress authorized states in 2016 to work with EPA on setting up coal ash permit programs, so long as state programs met federal cleanup standards. So far, only three states — Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia — have been approved to run permit programs. Alabama applied for the same authority in 2021.


After an extensive review of the Yellowhammer State’s permitting system, EPA found that regulators were not doing enough to protect human health and waterways, the agency said.