Posts tagged: coal ash

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coal ash


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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
25 February 2014, 12:50 PM
Years of activism resulted in historic Clinton executive directive
President Clinton signs Executive Order 12898 in 1994. (EPA Photo)

In 1982, when I was a young lawyer in North Carolina, the state had to clean up miles of roadsides where toxic PCBs had been illegally dumped. The state decided to dispose of the toxic waste in a landfill which it proposed to place in a predominantly low-income African-American community in Warren County, far from where the clean-up was occurring. The decision sparked protests from the community, and activists from the broader civil rights world joined the fight.

That fight in Warren County crystallized for many in the environmental and civil rights communities a recognition of the pattern of subjecting communities of color and low-income communities with the environmental and public health burdens of our industrial society. From this seed and others like it, the environmental justice movement was born.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
24 February 2014, 1:16 PM
Spills happen when there’s no incentive to comply with environmental rules
The toxic coal ash turned the Dan River gray for 20 miles east of the North Carolina border. (Photo courtesy of Waterkeeper Alliance)

Although the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources found Duke Energy in gross violation of the federal Clean Water Act, the state agency placed so little value on public health that they were willing to settle for a pittance—a penny per ton of toxic coal ash stored at Duke’s two illegally polluting plants. To rub ash into the wound, the agency didn’t even require Duke to stop the flow of arsenic, cadmium, chromium and other toxic metals from the millions of tons of coal ash at the plants, much less clean up the pollution. The state was willing to accept $99,000 in settlement with the utility giant.

Duke Energy can spare this chump change. The utility just announced a 50 percent increase in corporate profits in 2013, amounting to $2.6 billion per year for a company already valued at $50 billion. Duke’s $99,000 penalty was nothing—it’s like one of us, earning $50,000 a year, getting fined $1.90. Barely amounting to a library fine, this is no deterrent for the likes of Duke.

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
10 February 2014, 3:03 PM
Hellish coal ash mess in North Carolina is Virginia’s problem, too
Coal ash-contaminated water in the Dan River. (Photo courtesy of Waterkeeper Alliance)

The Feb. 2 coal ash spill at Duke Energy’s Dan River Steam Plant in Eden, NC is now a big problem for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The public drinking water intake for Danville, VA is only six miles downstream of the spill in the Dan River, where the plant released 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash and 27 million gallons of tainted water.

Duke’s coal ash turned the river gray for 20 miles east of the North Carolina border. About 7,200 pounds of arsenic entered the river, as well as other deadly metals. Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring promised that he would hold Duke responsible for the cleanup.

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
06 February 2014, 11:20 AM
Duke Energy dumps 8,000 pounds of arsenic into the Dan River
Aerial view of contamination of the Dan River. (Photo courtesy of Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins)

The EPA doesn’t need yet another reason to require the safe closure of the nation’s 1,070 coal ash ponds. But the massive leak of 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash from Duke Energy’s Dan River Power Station this week should set off a siren to wake our sleeping regulators.

Duke closed this North Carolina power plant in 2012, leaving its 58-year old, unlined coal ash pond containing about 100 million gallons of toxic ash open to the elements. The catastrophic spill should have been no surprise. The news comes just days after the EPA settled a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice and 11 other groups to finalize the first-ever federal protections from coal ash.

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
30 January 2014, 9:02 AM
The long wait is over: EPA agrees to finalize waste rule this year
A rally in Asheville, NC, calling for strong protections against coal ash contamination of waterways.

Late yesterday, the Department of Justice on behalf of the EPA lodged a consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that requires the EPA to publish a final rule addressing the disposal of coal ash by Dec. 19, 2014. The settlement came as a result of a lawsuit brought by 10 public interest groups and the Moapa Band of Paiutes against the EPA for its failure to review and revise its regulations pertaining to coal ash. The settlement does not dictate the content of the final regulation, but it confirms that the agency will finalize a rule by a date certain after years of delay.

If there has ever been a time to celebrate a victory on coal ash over the last three decades, today is the day.

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
09 January 2014, 8:51 AM
House Bill eviscerates landmark law, threatening public safety
Why does House leadership want to eviscerate Superfund? (USDA Photo)

It’s a hustle of grand proportions and deadly consequences. The House of Representatives will vote today on H.R. 2279, a bill that guts Superfund—the law that requires industries to handle their hazardous waste safely and clean up their toxic spills.

The bill strikes at the heart of the Superfund, which over the past three decades has allowed the EPA and other federal agencies to identify and clean up thousands of polluted sites across the country. The bill is so radically dangerous that the White House issued a statement asserting that H.R. 2279 could cause “significant site cleanup delays, endangering public health and the environment," and recommended the President veto the bill. More than120 public interest groups have also called for its defeat in a letter to Congress.

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View Shannon Fisk's blog posts
24 December 2013, 7:25 AM
Coal plants need to retire for the benefit of public health
The costliness of coal becomes more evident once you factor in the significant damage that it does to public health. (Photo by TVA)

This piece was originally published in EarthShare’s blog, one of Earthjustice’s partner groups working toward connecting people and workplaces with effective ways to support critical environmental causes. This featured Q&A reveals the answers about our reliance on coal.

Q: Why is coal such a dangerous source of energy?

A: For more than a century, coal has been used as a primary source of energy for electricity generation, steel production and cement manufacturing. But each step associated with energy generation from coal threatens our environment and our health.

Mining coal destroys entire ecosystems. In Appalachia, the practice of mountaintop removal mining is common, and entire mountaintops are blown apart to get at thin seams of coal. The rubble is dumped into nearby valleys, poisoning headwaters that provide drinking water for millions of Americans. As coal is burned in power plants, it produces mercury and arsenic as well as other chemicals that combine to form smog, soot, and acid rain, causing 13,200 premature deaths every year. This toxic air pollution can also impair development in children and cause cancer and other health problems.

View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
23 December 2013, 3:27 PM
Our litigation forces protections where political leaders fail us
Many environmental and public health safeguards still await approval, more than a year after the election. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The White House “systematically” delayed finalizing a host of environmental and public health safeguards for political reasons before the 2012 election, reported The Washington Post last February. With many of these rules still awaiting approvals more than a year after the election, the Post recently revisited its investigation into the politics of continued White House delays.

The latest article, by Juliet Eilperin, delves into the findings of a new independent report that concludes President Obama’s White House has injected new layers of White House intervention, politics, and control over basic federal agency duties and regulations. Among the hostages of this political slowdown are Environmental Protection Agency responsibilities to protect the public from toxic coal ash waste, cement factories and other industrial facilities, and smog.

While some in Washington, D.C., would see these environmental rules as opportunity for politicking and power play, elsewhere in the nation, communities and families are feeling the pain of delay.

View Debra Mayfield's blog posts
23 December 2013, 10:04 AM
Harriman, TN residents are not the only ones dealing with legacy of the spill
Esther Calhoun is one of many community members who are fighting for health protections to be enforced at the Arrowhead Landfill. (Photo by Chris Jordan-Bloch)

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. The disaster damaged or destroyed two dozen homes, destroyed power lines, washed out roads, ruptured a major gas line and water main, and killed thousands of fish and other wildlife.

Harriman residents were dealing with a monumental disaster. But in the long saga of cleanup and recovery, they weren’t the only ones dealing with the legacy of this spill.

Flash forward to 2010. Only a small percentage of the ash had been cleaned up, and residents of Harriman were losing patience. Though local papers reported that TVA had considered keeping the coal ash within state lines, with the approval of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), they chose to move the 4 million cubic yards of poisonous ash across state lines and dump it at the Arrowhead Landfill in Perry County Alabama, a county that is 68 percent African American, according to the 2010 Census and one of the poorest in that state.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
17 December 2013, 8:03 AM
Days before TVA spill 5-year anniversary, fight for clean water continues
The Missouri river floodplain adjacent to the Ameren power plant. (Photo courtesy of LEO)

Even though Patricia Schuba and I live nearly a thousand miles apart, we’ve been seeing a lot of each other lately. Patricia is the president of the Labadie Environmental Organization and the director of the coal ash program for Citizens Coal Council.

In May, she traveled to Washington, D.C. as a Clean Air Ambassador, representing her home state of Missouri. In July, she returned to Washington to testify at an Environmental Protection Agency public hearing on power plant water pollution, and in October, she and I spoke on a panel about the impacts of coal ash at an environmental conference.

Patricia Schuba.

Patricia represents her community in the fight to clean up coal ash pollution. In the fifth part of our ongoing series leading up to the 5th anniversary of the coal ash spill in Kingston, TN, Patricia tells us about the Ameren power plant in Labadie, MO.

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