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Tr-Ash Talk: Some Dirty Air With That Murky Water, Please

Looks like that murky glass of water shouldn’t be your only concern.  Several states weak on coal ash disposal also have another dubious claim: many are the worst offenders of air pollution.
In August, we released a report detailing the lack of state-based regulations for coal ash disposal and the 12 worst states when it comes to coal ash dumping.

Today, Earthjustice joined with Environmental Integrity Project, American Nurses Association and the Sierra Club releasing a report listing the 15 worst states for air pollution. The states on both lists? Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas. So, not only are these states shoddy on coal ash regulation, they are home to the highest levels of seven toxic air pollutants, including arsenic, chromium and mercury from power plants—the same toxic chemicals that threaten the drinking water in these states. 

As congressional leaders duke it out on the federal spending bill, they also are waging war with our public health in the form of riders, which are amendments tacked-on the bill taking away clean air and water protections. And rumor has it that a rider stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of authority to regulate coal ash may also be folded into the bill. Sadly, in October when H.R. 2273, “Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act” passed 267-144, the majority of congressmen from these nine states voted in support of this dangerous piece of legislation.

Let’s remind everyone what is at stake here: coal ash is laden with lead, arsenic, mercury, hexavalent chromium and other toxic metals known to cause cancer and damage organs. Coal ash is often stored in unlined, unprotected pits and sludge ponds, easily making its way into our drinking water supply.

The groups’ report, “America’s Top Power Plant Toxic Air Polluters,” details the dangers of exposure to power plant air pollution. Power plants emit dangerous levels of arsenic, chromium, mercury, cobalt, hydrochloric acid, nickel and selenium, all of which are toxic pollutants. The air toxics emitted from coal-fired power plants can cause cancer, damage to the liver, kidney, and the nervous and circulatory systems, and respiratory effects including asthma, decreased lung function, and bronchitis.”

It's sad that our elected leaders are gambling with our lives here. It’s clear to most of us how much our water and air protections are needed. But in the face of their dirty polluter industry cronies, it seems our leaders have lost that commitment to their constituents.

 

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.