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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.

Dust off those cobwebs from your memories of high school science. Can you describe what these words have in common: tesla, volt, mach?

While some may be saying, “Cars!” (Tesla Roadster, Chevy Volt, and, of course, Speed Racer’s Mach 5), the actual answer is: “Scientific units named after people.” Nikola Tesla (magnetic field strength); Alessandro Volt (electrical potential difference); and Ernst Mach (an object’s speed when traveling at the speed of sound).

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.

I remember my first thought when I read the papers on Dec. 23, the day after one of the biggest environmental disasters in our nation's history: "This is only the beginning."

The stories about the spill came out like the spill itself: slow at first, then in a huge, sudden avalanche of sad details. 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash from the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Power Plant burst through a dam near Harriman and spread over 300 acres of pristine shoreline along the Emory and Clinch Rivers.

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