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Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives

It’s been a hard year for those of us who dream of our drinking water being free from coal ash contamination.  We waited for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to release standards for regulating toxic coal ash and were dismayed to find out they would be delayed until the end of 2012 or even 2013.

This week, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment will investigate how the Environmental Protection Agency incorporates science into its rulemaking process. Given that the EPA has been Public Enemy Number 1 for the GOP-controlled House, this is likely to be another opportunity for Republicans and their comrades to target the EPA.

On Friday, in a 267–144 vote, a majority of House members voted to keep allowing coal ash to pollute our drinking water. The passage of the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act (H.R. 2273) lets states choose to adopt a disposal standard less protective than those for household garbage.

East Tennessee is not known for its population of environmental activists, but last fall hundreds of people turned up in Knoxville to ask the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt a special waste designation for coal ash. Support for EPA’s public health and environmental safeguard is strong here because the 2008 Kingston coal ash disaster occurred in our backyard, making the danger of toxic coal ash blatantly clear.

The TVA Kingston trial has gotten off to a interesting, yet unsettling start. The trial consists of five cases, representing 250 plaintiffs who are suing TVA over the 2008 coal ash disaster that occurred in Knoxville, TN.

Testimony began last week, and proceedings are expected to continue anywhere from the next few weeks to the next few months. Representatives from TVA have been the first to testify, and so far it has been laden with blame-passing statements that characterize the disjointed nature of the TVA departments.

As a federal trial on the TVA Kingston coal ash disaster continues in Knoxville, some of our elected leaders in Congress are including the coal ash rule (already delayed due to heavy industry opposition) in a list of rules that will be analyzed - and likely even more delayed.

But more on that later.

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