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A Margin Error of...Times 20???

Just last week we marked the two-year anniversary of the Kingston, TN TVA coal ash spill. Today, Earthjustice, the Environmental Integrity Project and Stockholm Environment Institute’s U.S. Center have released an analysis of an analysis: basically the EPA overinflated (by 20 times!) the values for coal ash recycling. The EPA claims that coal ash recycling is worth more than $23 billion a year, but the government’s own data shows that this number is actually $1.5 billion. Apparently this inflated number is holding up coal ash regulations due to the fear that stricter standards will depress markets for coal-ash recycling.

Earthjustice and the other advocacy groups are fearful that the EPA will be intimidated into adopting weak coal ash rules (there are two being proposed) based on these inaccurate numbers. The discrepancy is due to many factors, including double counting pollution reductions and overstating emission levels from cement kilns. Here is what Earthjustice staff attorney Abbie Dillen had to say:

It should come as no surprise that requiring safe landfills for coal ash is less costly than allowing ash dumps to contaminate water in hundreds of communities around the country. What is surprising, in the face of this major public health threat, is that the books are being cooked to accommodate the coal industry.

In The Hill publication, Dillen further explained concerns from environmental groups, saying that the EPA is “painting itself into a corner” with this inaccurate analysis.

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