The entrance to the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. /Bill Clark

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) eased rules for handling toxic coal ash from more than 400 US coal-fired power plants. The change pushes back the deadline to close ash dumps and gives state regulators more say in how they deal with the waste piles that result from burning coal for electricity.

The rules had been brought in under President Obama in 2015. The EPA said the revision would give flexibility to utility companies and states and save around $30m in regulatory costs, reports Reuters.

“Our actions mark a significant departure from the one-size-fits-all policies of the past,” said Andrew Wheeler, acting head of the agency and former lobbyist for coal companies. Environmental groups have strongly criticised the move, says The Hill.

In a statement, the Natural Resources Defense Council accused Wheeler of “giving his former clients in the coal industry a pass on having to clean up their toxic waste.”

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that the US Department of Commerce has started an investigation into whether the country’s imports of uranium are a threat to national security, “opening a new front in its escalating series of disputes over international trade”.

Domestic production of uranium has dropped from 49% to 5% of US demand since 1987, says The Hill. In related news, The Hill also reports that a federal appeals court has blocked a policy that sought to ignore a regulation limiting sales of trucks that environmental groups call “super-polluting.”

The three-judge panel said the stay is intended “to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion.”

The policy was issued in a memo by former EPA head Scott Pruitt on the day he resigned from the agency. And finally, E&E News reports that Republican congressman Carlos Curbelo has proposed a $23 carbon tax in a draft bill.

The legislation would pause federal regulations on climate change in exchange for an escalating tax on CO2 emissions.

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