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Tr-Ash Talk: Wash. Post Writes Politics, Coal Ash

In our effort to raise awareness on the hazards of coal ash, we have written blog post after blog post, sent press releases, submitted editorials and letters to the editor.

So we are mighty pleased that the Washington Post featured this important issue in a story today written by Juliet Eilperin. The story illustrates the politics obstructing the coal ash rule from moving forward.

But what I am most pleased about, is the voice that this story gives to folks on the ground who are enduring the hazards of living near coal ash ponds. More on that later…

Eilperin writes that while Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson committed to protecting the public from coal ash, that was back in 2010 and nothing has happened since. In June 2010, the EPA published two coal ash regulations. One, favored by coal interests, is a weaker, voluntary approach that classifies coal ash as non-hazardous under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The other would establish federal minimum standards enforceable by the EPA and require the phase-out of all wet storage ponds. The proposal is in limbo and Eilperin writes: “no one expects anything more to happen before the election.”

The article mentions that drinking water contamination at sites violates federal drinking water or health standards in at least 197 sites in 37 states, including seven in Virginia and three in Maryland.

Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), who threw his constituents under the bus by sponsoring H.R. 2273, is quoted in the article claiming that Democrats blocked the “first-ever national standards” for coal ash impoundments. He doesn’t clarify that Democrats blocked a measure that would classify coal ash as a solid, non-hazardous waste, allow unstable coal ash impoundments to operate indefinitely without engineering safeguards, fail to control fugitive dust, and permanently remove all rule-making authority from EPA. Ultimately, this would leave communities without any safeguards—the status they are in now.

Rep. McKinley’s constituents Curt and Debbie Haven tell Eilperin that they may have to sell their family home in Chester, W. Va. due to coal ash waste run-off seeping onto their land.

The Havens have lived in the home for close to four decades and would rather not leave the home and community in which they raised their children.

William Anderson holds a photo of the Reid Gardner Power Station.  (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

“I just hope we get out of here before one of us gets sick, and that’s the rest of our life,” Debbie is quoted saying.

The Moapa Band of Paiutes, whose reservation is near the Reid Gardner Generation Station, suffer alarming rates of asthma, and are exposed to contaminated drinking water. William Anderson, chairman of the Moapa, tells the Washington Post that the land “is our birthplace. This is our home.”

Please take a moment to read the article and post a comment.

About the Earthjustice Blog

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.