It is far from a traditional Valentine, but it could be seen that way for people working to keep coal ash, especially from out-of-state sources, from Coastal Georgia.
State Sen. William Ligon, R-St. Simons Island, filed S.B. 165 Tuesday, which details the liability issues companies that generate coal ash face when transporting and depositing the material — the term of law being “coal combustion residuals” — at pits and landfills elsewhere, like the controversial activity at the Broadhurst Landfill in Wayne County.
“The goal is to increase responsible stewardship regarding coal ash disposal,” Ligon said Wednesday. “Currently, we have two situations. Some companies that have coal ash residue are disposing it on their own property. They are motivated to be sure that the contaminants from the ash do not leech onto the property of others as this would expose the producers of the ash to civil suits for damages.”
But other folks, he noted, are disposing of the ash on property owned by others, which complicates the liability picture.
“If the contaminants in coal ash find their way onto neighboring properties, these producers of coal ash which use a third party as their disposal site are not currently civilly liable for damages to the neighboring properties,” Ligon said. “Under this bill, they are. Property owners who suffer damages will be able to file suit to recover for the damage caused to their property.”
According to the bill, a company that generates coal ash would have to have $100 million in assets in Georgia or put up a suitable bond to dispose of the materials on a third-party site, and that the state has the authority, but is not mandated, to require testing of the ash for the presence of hazardous chemicals before disposal.
Because of the liability incurred by disposing of coal ash on the company’s own property, nothing in the legislation applies to that particular practice.
Meanwhile in the House, Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, filed his coal ash bills Wednesday. H.B. 387 specifically deals with coal ash dewatering and requires energy companies to convert to dry storage. The bill was not set to be published online until after press time Wednesday, but the draft bill provides strict guidelines for the coal ash pit dewatering process, and states all electric utilities and independent power producers would have to convert to dry storage by late 2020. The draft also called for an eventual end to coal ash in surface impoundments.
H.B. 388 addresses coal ash disposal in landfills, with major points being requiring a “major modification” of the landfill permit should the property owner decide to accept coal ash at more than 5 percent of the volume previously permitted. That would also kick into function requirements for public notification and public meetings, among other conditions. It also makes specifications to prevent leeching of coal ash materials into aquifers.