New rules on coal-ash storage introduced by the Illinois Pollution Control Board could serve as an example for other US states looking to make safe by-products of coal-burning power plants, which include fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag and various other residues.

Illinois' new rules include the requirement for commercial storage site operators to put up letters of credit (L/Cs) or another financial assurance that sites do not expose the environment to harmful substances including mercury, cadmium and arsenic, which can pollute and contaminate surrounding bodies of water and drinking water supplies.

The rules, framed after an extensive public consultation process, provide for the protection of public health and the environment and require coal-ash disposal site owners or operators to move coal-ash to landfills or disposal sites with protective lining and groundwater monitoring systems.

L/Cs guarantee responsibilities

Owners and operators are now responsible for the full cost of transporting all material or retrofitting coal-ash disposal sites.

Coal-ash storage sites not owned by a municipality are responsible for providing financial assurance in the form of an L/C, bonds or a trust fund ensuring that site remediation can be paid for in the event the responsible company runs out of funds or abandons the site.

Model example

An attorney with non-profit environmental-law group Earthjustice, Jennifer Cassel, reckons

the new rules could serve as an example for other US states.

"We're one of the first states to really take a comprehensive approach at how we deal with coal-ash ponds," Cassel said. "I think the transparency and public participation provisions in particular are ones that could serve as models for other states, and really making sure that communities voices are heard in how to how to best limit the pollution from this stuff."

This article represents the views of the author and not necessarily those of the ICC or Coastline Solutions.