OAK CREEK — New federal rules on coal ash won’t change anything at We Energies’ Oak Creek power plant, though environmental groups continue to push for stronger regulations.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s new standards, which went into effect this month, were the first national guidelines on coal ash — a byproduct of coal burned to create electricity.
The guidelines were largely aimed at coal ash in landfills and ponds. We Energies, meanwhile, recycles its coal ash, with the ash frequently re-used in cement as part of road construction projects, spokesman Brian Manthey said.
The EPA rules do not impact the re-use of coal ash that We Energies and other utilities practice.
“We don’t see that the (new regulations) would make a difference for us,” Manthey said.
Clean Wisconsin believes the EPA regulations don’t go far enough and want to see the re-use of coal ash regulated in the future.
The group has been critical of the re-use of coal ash and in a report last year linked coal ash with water contamination issues in Racine County, a finding both We Energies and the state Department of Natural Resources disputed.
“A lot of what the new rule applies to are ponds and landfills, which are a huge problem in other states, but Wisconsin … does re-use a lot of its ash,” said Katie Nekola, an attorney for the organization.
“We would like to see a lot stronger rules that would also pertain to the re-use.”
What the EPA regulations do include are restrictions on locations of landfills, requirements that old coal ash-filled ponds be closed and liners be placed at new ponds and landfills.
Manthey said We Energies has a good record of handling coal ash, largely avoiding placing it in landfills or ponds that have resulted in problems elsewhere.
“We’ve been really out front in terms of doing different things that maybe other utilities across the country haven’t,” Manthey said.