EPA shifts oversight of coal waste to a state – Oklahoma – for first time

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency has approved the first state permit program for disposal of toxic ash from coal plants, a switch from federal oversight the coal industry had sought.

Coal ash is the residue left after burning coal to generate power. It can contain toxins such as arsenic and chromium and contaminate ground water.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had delayed implementation of a 2015 federal rule that set tighter guidelines for waste from coal plants.

Pruitt said the first approval of a state permit program, in Oklahoma, gives oversight to "those who are best positioned to oversee coal ash management - the officials who have intimate knowledge of the facilities and the environment in their state."

Texas, a top coal producer, is among other states pursuing approval.