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Senate Showdown Over Health, Environment

Arsenic-infused drinking water, the risk of cancer, and the fear of being washed away by a flood of toxic sludge are a burden of concern for Americans living near more than 1,300 toxic coal ash dump sites.They have expressed their concerns through numerous letters to Congress, petitions, and more than 450,000 public comments to the Environmental Protection Agency. They urge federal action to stop disposal practices that trap communities in clouds of toxic ash, contaminate drinking water, and lead to massive dam collapses.

Yet, protection from toxic heavy metals and standards that will prevent another dam failure are not solutions the EPA has provided. Meanwhile, as the administration plays a waiting game with potential disaster, citizens across the U.S. live in harm’s way.

In this new Congress, the Senate position on coal ash remains to be seen. But this week, as the Senate brings its Budget Resolution to the floor, it will become quite clear which senators are eager to score political points with industries whose entitlement to pollute is only rivaled by their hunger for kneecapping public health and environmental protections. The Budget Resolution the Senate hopes to finalize this week is expected to be the target of a series of anti-environmental amendments. A coal ash face-off would pit those who want to let energy companies off the hook for fouling air and water against those who want to protect our communities from unsafe and life-threatening dumping of toxic waste.

Ironically, our household garbage is held to stricter disposal standards than industry’s toxic trash. Industry will fight tooth and nail to maintain this disparity, and if their corporate servants in Congress have their way, coal ash will continue to grow in quantity and toxicity, unencumbered as it continues its silent but toxic trespass, poisoning everything in its path.

This may be a new Congress, but for citizens concerned with coal ash pollution a Senate attack won’t be their first rodeo. From Alaska to Nevada, Appalachia to Florida, impacted citizens are battle-hardened and ready to fight for the safety and well-being of our communities, rallying to urge the Senate to keep the budget resolution clean and free of unrelated and dangerous coal ash amendments.

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