Officials have canceled an October 11 public hearing on a Tanners Creek Power Plant ash pond closure plan.
The former Tanners Creek Power Plant site in Lawrenceburg is being redeveloped for potential use as a new Ports of Indiana location on the Ohio River. File photo.
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – A federal court ruling is throwing into question a closure plan for one ash pond at the former Tanners Creek Power Plant site in Lawrenceburg.
Tanners Creek Development, LLC is prepping the 725-acre power plant property for potential redevelopment as Indiana’s third and newest shipping port on the Ohio River. The company bought the property from American Electric Power in 2016.
Part of the brownfield redevelopment process is closing the storage areas where fly ash from the power plant’s 60 years of coal-burning operations are buried. Tanners Creek Development is seeking to close and cap the ash landfills containing millions of tons of coal combustion residuals known to contain arsenic, lead, mercury, chromium, and other contaminants.
In August, Tanners Creek Development submitted to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management a proposed closure plan for an area known as the Main Ash Pond, or MAP. Unlike the newer Fly Ash Pond located just a few thousand feet west, the MAP is not bottom-lined with a PVC layer.
IDEM had schedule a public hearing on the MAP closure plan for October 11. However, a recent federal court decision on a case has put the closure plan on hold.
On August 21, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. issued a 72-page opinion that 2015 Obama Administration rules on coal ash storage do not adequately protect communities and the environment from unlined ash ponds at closed coal-fired power plants.
The court has ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to revise the rule and properly address the threats posed by the dump sites.
IDEM public information officer Barry Sneed says the federal court ruling may affect the standards under which the Lawrenceburg MAP is being closed. And so, the closure plan has entered a holding pattern.
“This may require the MAP closure plan Tanner’s Creek submitted to IDEM in August 2018 to be revised. We try to have public meetings regarding closure plans scheduled in concert with our technical review of the documents under consideration,” explained Sneed.
Including Tanners Creek, there are about 100 such ash landfills nationwide no longer receiving ash, but not yet fully closed, according to the EPA.
There have been other recent federal court decisions concerning ash ponds in other parts of the country, mainly dealing with the reach of the federal Clean Water Act and regulatory uncertainty. Courts have reached varying opinions on the matters, creating the potential for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide on several CWA issues.
Four Indiana environmental watchdog groups wrote to IDEM in July with concerns about the Lawrenceburg ash storage. They said that the ash in the ground – whether it is lined or not – poses a risk of contamination to local drinking water.
Wellfields for Aurora Utilities and Lawrenceburg-Manchester-Sparta Conservancy are located just west of the power plant site.
According to Waterkeeper.org, the EPA’s 2015 coal ash rule required utilities to test the water near their coal ash dumps to make sure hazardous chemicals were not leaking into drinking water sources. Monitoring results released in March showed 90 percent of the coal ash dumps in the U.S. are contaminating groundwater with toxins above levels which the EPA deems safe for drinking water.