WIIN passes, and the future of coal ash is unclear.

Regulation of Illinois’ coal ash may now fall solely in Illinois EPA’s hands.

This weekend, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN) passed the U.S. House and Senate, and is now awaiting a signature. This bill provides investments into water infrastructure across the country, including funding to address the Flint water crisis, but on the issue of coal ash, it included what may be a game changer.

The bill amends the federal coal combustion residual rule (CCR Rule), which regulates the management of coal ash waste disposal. The amendment allows states to run their own permit program for coal ash management that is “at least as protective as” the federal coal combustion residual rule.

This is cause for potential concern. The phrase ‘at least as protective as’ is subjective, and this might mean that our protections are slipping. States can find ways to implement programs that allow important details of coal ash waste management or key monitoring requirements to fall through the cracks.

However, with a Trump whitehouse, this may be a blessing for Illinois. Power has passed from the federal government to the states at a time when the federal government is quickly becoming anti-environment. Illinois now has a chance to pass strong coal ash rules – potentially stronger than the federal coal combustion residual rule.

Of course, we’ve already been fighting to pass stronger coal ash rules in Illinois. Prairie Rivers Network and our partners have been involved in a rulemaking process for a few years now. Illinois EPA’s current proposal was not drafted to replace the federal rule. Their proposal, or any new one they draft, will have to stand before the US EPA and the Illinois Pollution Control Board, giving more opportunities for the public’s voice to be heard.

We will keep you updated.

As always, check out our coal ash map to learn about coal ash near you.