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Tr-Ash Talk: 'Stand Your Ground' Embraces Coal Ash

The New York Times reported over the weekend that Common Cause, a nonprofit watchdog group, was using thousands of documents it received to bolster a claim that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) violates its nonprofit status by practicing in state and federal lobbying. ALEC, which has been in the news lately, is a corporate funded conservative group composed of lobbyists and elected officials that often drafts and votes on legislative language on a variety of issues that undermine the health and safety of the American public. Their initiatives include measures to weaken labor and environmental laws, and most notoriously, "Stand Your Ground" laws, such as the one being used as a defense in the murder of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

It should come as no surprise then that ALEC also drafted and adopted a resolution pertaining to relaxed federal protections for coal ash.

Currently, no federal coal ash safeguards exist. A 2008 coal ash spill in Kingston, TN, motivated the EPA to propose the first ever federal rules regarding safe disposal of coal ash in 2010. After a lengthy public hearing process, those rules are still pending final approval.

But the Center for Media and Democracy says that ALEC and its members approved a resolution in 2010 that discouraged federal coal ash protections and instead advocated for state-based coal ash standards. It is widely known among public interest and health organizations that states have been ineffective at best in setting coal ash safeguards that protect our health and communities. A strong, uniform federal standard is what is needed most to protect communities from the toxic coal ash threat.

Just last week, the House of Representatives passed a Transportation Bill that included an amendment that would prohibit the EPA from ever setting federal coal ash safeguards and instead—you guessed it—would push the authority to regulate coal ash to the states. ALEC boasts membership from thousands of legislators and dozens of major corporate sponsors, including coal giant Peabody Energy. As communities suffer with rivers, lakes, streams and aquifers poisoned by coal ash, Republican leadership is pushing an amendment that would gut any possibility of federal protection by including it in must-pass legislation.

The Transportation bill is meant to ensure safe roads, safe highways and safe communities. Polluting it with amendments that will poison our communities is unfair. Urge your senators to reject any amendments that gut federal coal ash protections.