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Tr-Ash Talk: Rebellion Against Coal Ash in Illinois

Illinois has the dubious distinction of being a state with one of the worst coal ash regulatory programs in the nation. But what is more outrageous is that no less than 11 Illinois congressmen are pushing to block the U.S. EPA from cleaning up coal ash in the state. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is among them. That’s why when the Prairie Rivers Network and Environmental Integrity Project released a report detailing the risk of coal ash contamination in Illinois,  and in Rep. Kinzinger’s district in particular, more than three dozen Joliet, Illinois residents and members of Mt. Zion Baptist Church protested outside of Rep. Kinzinger’s office. 

Illinois not only was profiled in the EIP/Prairie Rivers Network report, it also was featured in an Earthjustice report that listed the top 12 states with the poorest state coal ash regulations. With 68 operating coal ash ponds and 15 retired ponds that still pose a danger, Illinois ranks first in the nation in the number of coal ash ponds. Only about a third of these ponds are lined.  The ponds threaten the health of Illinois communities because at least 10 power plants with active ponds have “high” to “very high” potential to contaminate a drinking water source, according to a 2010 Illinois EPA assessment.  In fact, the Illinois EPA has found pollution— the same chemicals commonly found in coal ash-- in groundwater at all 22 coal ash ponds evaluated by the state agency.

The protesters were not only calling on Rep. Kinzinger to do the right thing and vote to protect his residents against coal ash contamination, they also were calling on the Illinois EPA to protect citizens from the groundwater contamination emanating from the Lincoln Stone Quarry, where coal ash has been disposed for over a decade. Joliet residents contend that that Illinois EPA has known about groundwater pollution at this site for more than 12 years – and has done nothing to stop the disposal of coal ash that is causing this contamination.

Following the rally, the group marched into Rep. Kinzinger’s office and asked that he withdraw his support of legislation (H.R. 2273) that would strip the EPA of authority to regulate coal ash and prevent EPA from phasing out the use of dangerous coal ash ponds.

“Rep. Kinzinger has supported every dirty water measure that's been put before him this year, including votes that would take away EPA's ability to regulate coal ash,” said Brian Perbix of the Prairie Rivers Network.

But Kinzinger is not the only member of the Illinois delegation to turn his back on protection of public health.  No less than 10 other Illinois congressmen have recently voted to strip EPA’s authority to eliminate this grave threat to Illinois citizens, including the author of H.R. 2273, Congressman John Shimkus (R, 19th) and Representatives Peter Roskam (R. 6th), Joe Walsh (R. 8th), Robert Dold (R. 10th), Jerry Costello (D. 12th), Judy Biggert (R. 13th), Randy Hultgren (R. 14th), Donald Manzullo (R. 16th), Robert Schilling (R. 17th), and Aaron Schock (R. 18th).
Undoubtedly there’s something in the water.