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Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives

Knowledge is king, and now we know more about the extent of damage coal ash sites across the country are causing to our drinking water. A new report issued today by Earthjustice, the Environmental Integrity Project and  Sierra Club offers data that documents water contaminated with arsenic and other heavy metals at 39 coal ash dumps in 21 states.

In just over three weeks, the EPA will hold the first of five public hearings on its plan to finally regulate coal ash, the nasty, hazardous remains leftover from coal-fired power plants. On August 30, right here in Washington DC, the EPA will hear from hundreds of victims, advocates, community members, environmentalists, activists and everyday citizens about the need to clean up these dangerous dumps and waste ponds filled with decades of contaminated coal ash.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency started the 90-day clock for public comments on its plans to set federal safeguards for millions of tons of dangerous coal ash wastee currently being stored in dry dumps and waste ponds. This means we've got three months to set the EPA on a straight course towards the first ever strong, federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash. And judging from the current proposal, it seems like the EPA can use our help.

Coal-fired power plants generate enough coal ash every year to fill a train stretching from the North Pole all the way to the South Pole. There is enough coal ash being stored in ponds and landfills to fill 738 Empire State Buildings, or flow continuously over Niagara Falls for three days straight. It's no mystery that we create staggering amounts of coal ash, the dangerous byproduct of burning coal to fuel our energy demands.

It's been a long time coming, but they're finally here: the EPA announced today plans to set the first ever federal safeguards for coal ash, one of America's most dangerous wastes. But what they really did was announce two plans: one good and one bad. The agency will accept public comment on both plans and then decide which to pursue.

When the EPA said on its website that April was going to be the month when we'd see the first ever federal coal ash regulations, environmental groups were in support. Sure, it would be four months later than what the EPA originally promised when a billion gallons of coal ash spilled across 300 acres in Tennessee, but we remained optimistic.

Now the month is half over and still no coal ash regulations. So, we're taking our fight up the ladder.

I know how crazy this sounds: I love spending time reading through arcane government filings in the Federal Register and on Regulations.gov. I'm fascinated by the volume of it all, and like a modern day miner panning for environmental gold, I sometimes unearth a juicy nugget of information. Today is one of those days.

Coal ash currently stored in ponds across the U.S. could flow continuosly over Niagara Falls for three days straight. The new Dallas Cowboys stadium couldn't hold all the coal ash in those ponds; in fact, you'd need 263 Dallas Cowboys stadiums to hold it all. We'd need to build 738 Empire State buildings to contain it all.

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