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Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives

No one who has met Ken will ever forget him.

I first met him in 1999 when I started at Earthjustice. Joe Lovett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates and his colleagues had just won the first-ever federal court ruling against mountaintop removal. This set off a political firestorm in West Virginia and at the U.S. Capitol. Efforts were underway to overturn the decision by exempting mountaintop removal from federal environmental laws.

Each year millions of gallons of toxic chemicals flow into lakes, streams, rivers and bays from our nation’s “surface impoundments”—often referred to as “coal ash” ponds. The well-documented result is the death and mutation of fish and wildlife. Recently, two senior scientists examined the damage from those ponds and put a price on their immense harm.

For years, white ash has been blowing across the desert from the Reid Gardner Power Plant right into the homes on the Moapa Paiute Indian Reservation. The Paiutes claim that this ash—the waste from the power plant—is making them sick. The power plant claims that the Paiutes are wrong. This week, a 3-part investigative series from KSNV, the NBC station in Las Vegas, examines the situation in Moapa from three sides. The Paiutes and the power plant each get their say—as does science.

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