RD154 - Waste Coal Piles Identification and Use of Coal Ash Report – HB657/SB120

Executive Summary:

The Author, under the approved scope of work with the agency, provides in this report a basic background of waste coal storage features and practices in the Southwest Virginia coalfields and addresses potential cleaning, utilization and reclamation options. Common definitions are explained, waste characterization practices are discussed and opportunities for commercial utilization, using circular economy and responsible principles, are presented.

As directed by the legislation and the agency, special reference is made throughout the report to best practices, including operational, health, safety and environmental standards in accordance with US, as well as global guidelines, beyond state and federal regulatory and compliance requirements. This has been addressed by developing a Performance Protocol for life cycle analysis and utilization of waste storage facilities generated by coal mining and coal fired electric generation.

In addition, the report addresses experiences in similar gob pile efforts from the other Central Appalachian states, which are defined in this report as Southwest Virginia, Southern West Virginia, East Kentucky and East Tennessee, based on Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and US Geological Survey (USGS) criteria. Within the region, coal mining and coal waste practices are similar, and, in preparation of this report, the Author and the Virginia Energy leadership convened a Central Appalachian States Gob Piles discussion group, for initiating and continuing discussions amongst the state agencies and other stakeholders on gob piles related topics, and to share technologies, practices and experience into the future.

In addition to waste coal, and as directed by House Bill 657/Senate Bill 120, the report also discusses opportunities and challenges to recover construction products, and other useful product streams, from stored coal ash sites in the Commonwealth of Virginia and to identify opportunities for such current and future sites to support construction of public infrastructure projects in the Commonwealth.

The discussion and comments of the Central Appalachian States Gob Piles Committee were invaluable and are reflected in this report. In addition, the Author participated in the meetings of the broad Stakeholders Working Group, organized by Virginia Energy, and those discussions and recommendations were incorporated in the development of the report.

Finally, the Karmis LLC (2022) Coal Waste Streams Report in support of House Bill 657/Senate Bill 120 presents a roadmap to the future, by identifying technologies and best practices that can promote the responsible renewal of gob piles and coal ash waste storage facilities. Incentives for gob piles and coal ash owners have also been addressed, as well as administrative challenges that must be considered and overcome to encourage a healthy and viable industry on cleaning and utilizing waste coal piles in the Southwest Virginia Coalfields and stored coal ash sites in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The report also recognizes the work and wealth of knowledge already developed by key state agencies, mainly Virginia Energy on gob piles and DEQ on coal ash storage, and proposes that Virginia considers committing additional resources, both in funding and personnel, to improve the capability and expertise of these agencies in the renewal of gob piles and coal ash facilities. Such a capacity upgrade will also justify increased expectations for Virginia Energy to actively engage and participate in private-public partnerships that are usually needed to respond to the competitive federal solicitations available in the recently announced major infrastructure bills.