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Washington, DC

It’s been five years, but hard to forget: On December 22, 2008, just after midnight, the town of Harriman, Tennessee woke to the flood of more than one billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge that burst through an earthen dam on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant. It was one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history—its volume 101 times larger than that of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. One resident described the boom of the breach as something supernatural, like the sound of the end of the world.

Today, the highest court of the land will hear argument in a case that is important to anyone with lungs.

Here’s the issue in brief: after a court of appeals invalidated the U.S. EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), environmental groups, the EPA itself and various states, asked the Supreme Court to get involved.

One of the nation’s largest coal ash dumps spans two states (West Virginia and Pennsylvania) and borders a third (Ohio). It is 30 times larger than the Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash pond at the Kingston Fossil Plant which burst in 2008.

The Little Blue Run coal ash impoundment has poisoned nearby waters with arsenic, selenium, boron and more. Residents tell of murky sludge oozing from the ground around their homes.

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