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 Lisa Evans's blog posts
05 July 2012, 11:58 AM
Josh Galperin on growing threat of toxic waste
Devastation following the Kingston coal ash disaster

(Note from Lisa Evans: Last week, we nearly lost the battle for Environmental Protection Agency regulations. However, thanks to the chorus of voices from affected communities and public interest groups across the nation and to the amazing work of our champions in the House and Senate, a provision blocking an EPA coal ash rule was removed from the federal transportation bill.  Here is a wrap-up of the close fight by Josh Galperin, Policy Analyst and Research Attorney for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Josh reminds us that -- contrary to what the coal industry would have us believe -- more (coal ash dumps) cannot equal less (regulation).)

Last week brought a lot of news about coal ash in national media, some good, some bad. On one side we learned of new information from the EPA to add to the growing mountain of evidence about the risks of unregulated coal ash (that’s bad). On the other side we pulled out a narrow victory in Washington, DC by keeping dangerous coal ash language out of the federal Transportation Bill (phew, that’s good!).

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
21 June 2012, 2:42 PM
EPA's delay in issuing a final coal ash rule is jeopardizing its very authority

Although the EPA’s proposed coal ash rule was published two years ago, a final rule is nowhere in sight. Two years is more than enough time for the EPA to decide on a set of reasonable, health-protective standards for the country’s second largest industrial waste.

The EPA blames the delay on 450,000 public comments. However, the EPA considered more than 900,000 comments on the Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS) in less than a year. Given its ability to process double the number of comments in half the time, it appears that the EPA is burying a public health standard for political reasons. Throughout this delay we’ve seen a torrent of lobbyists and elected officials riding a flood of industry money, sailing in repeatedly to try to finish the EPA’s jobs.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
20 June 2012, 9:47 AM
McKinley offers motion testing House Democrats' concern for public health

It’s Groundhog Day in the House of Representatives. Once again, coal company allies are leading a charge to pass a symbolic vote that would reinforce their disdain for any plans to clean up coal ash ponds and landfills with federal minimum safeguards. But the symbolism has real-world impacts: nearly 200 coal ash sites have already contaminated nearby lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers with dangerous chemicals that cause cancer, organ damage and even death.

Representatives will vote on an arcane Motion to Instruct, which tells the 47 members of the House and Senate who are on the conference committee for a massive transportation bill package to include a bad amendment on coal ash. That amendment snuffs out any possibility for the EPA to set federal regulations for safe coal ash disposal and was attached to the version of the transportation bill the House passed last month.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
08 June 2012, 11:33 AM
That’s what some congressional leaders want people to think

So, you’d think we’d all be in agreement here: clean water is a boon for everyone. That means, keep coal ash (full of mercury, arsenic, hexavalent chromium and other nasty stuff) out of our drinking water, right? Sadly, that doesn’t hold true for everyone. Some members of the House of Representatives think that funding 2.9 million jobs via the transportation bill is a great opportunity to shove in a measure that will block the EPA from ever regulating coal ash on a federal level.

Scratch your heads. It doesn’t make sense to us, either.

Which is why Earthjustice is one of 140 groups from 14 states that sent a letter to Senate conferees, calling on them to pass a transportation bill free of public health loopholes. This means getting rid of the coal ash rider, as well as amendments that would automatically permit the Keystone XL pipeline (a controversial project that is harmful for the climate) and another that would dismantle public participation-oriented environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

View Emily Enderle's blog posts
17 May 2012, 11:12 AM
Rep. McKinley's constituents call him out for standing with corporate interests
Little Blue Run Dam and reservoir, as viewed from the International Space Station, is the largest coal ash pond in the country. Materials suspended in the water give it a striking, turquoise color. (April 2002, NASA)

It’s inspiring to see the commitment of Rep. David McKinley’s constituents living in the shadow of First Energy’s behemoth 1,000-acre Little Blue Run waste dump continuing to speak the truth amid the lies flaunted by corporate interests. Steve and Annette Rhodes, life-long residents of West Virginia, describe the stark and unfortunate reality of living near a toxic coal ash dump and debunk the many falsehoods spouted by Rep. McKinley in their recent piece in The Hill, Rep McKinley We Live Here with the Coal Ash. They are also quite clear that the coal ash amendment (Title V of HR 4348) pushed by Rep. McKinley is an overzealous attempt to jam a controversial public health loophole into an unrelated transportation bill.

Rep. McKinley is a broken record when it comes to citing flawed industry reports and ignoring the public health and environmental impacts of his dangerous provision. He consistently turns a blind eye to repeated private and public requests for relief from his constituents who live in the shadows of the largest toxic coal ash pond in the U.S. His constituents have testified before Congress, been quoted in the WV press, national press and elsewhere complaining of contaminated water flowing onto their properties, noxious odors and tainted soil.

Chester, WV, where the Rhodes live, borders Little Blue Run. The dump holds approximately 20 billion gallons of toxic sludge and is held back by a 400-foot earthen dam—the tallest of its kind in the U.S. It straddles the border between West Virginia and Pennsylvania and looms over Ohio. It’s rated a high hazard dam by EPA and is expected to kill upwards of 50,000 people in Ohio if it were to fail. According to the EPA, contaminated water from Little Blue Run has been dousing properties at a volume equal to seven fire hoses and arsenic has been migrating into Marks Run, a local stream.

Little Blue Run straddles the border between West Virginia and Pennsylvania and looms over Ohio. The coal ash dump holds approximately 20 billion gallons of toxic sludge and is held back by a 400-foot earthen dam—the tallest of its kind in the U.S.

Little Blue Run is the largest coal ash pond in the US. It straddles the border between West Virginia and Pennsylvania and looms over Ohio. The coal ash dump is 1000 acres, holds approximately 20 billion gallons of toxic sludge and is held back by a 400-foot earthen dam—the tallest of its kind in the U.S.
View Hartwell Carson's blog posts
02 May 2012, 12:13 PM
EPA and North Carolina need to step up coal ash regulation, enforcement
As evidenced in North Carolina and other states burdened by coal ash ponds, waiting for states to effectively regulate coal ash is a lose-lose situation.

The Progress Energy plant in Asheville, NC operates two of the nation's tallest high-hazard coal-ash ponds. “High-hazard” means that if either of the pond’s decades-old earthen dams were to break, loss of life would be likely. In Asheville, such a break would completely swamp the French Broad River and Interstate 26.

Absent a dam break, these unlined ponds unfortunately still pose tremendous threats, releasing dangerous chemicals into the area’s groundwater, river and air. The people of North Carolina are tired of being exposed to toxic coal ash, and on World Water Day last March, more than 200 North Carolinians joined together for a “Clean Water, Not Coal Ash” rally against this pollution. On Coal River videographer Adams Wood captured the essence of this event in the accompanying video:

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
24 April 2012, 6:09 AM
Conservative group ALEC would weaken coal ash standards
The 2008 coal ash spill in Kingston, TN, motivated the EPA to propose the first ever federal rules regarding safe disposal of coal ash in 2010. (TVA)

The New York Times reported over the weekend that Common Cause, a nonprofit watchdog group, was using thousands of documents it received to bolster a claim that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) violates its nonprofit status by practicing in state and federal lobbying. ALEC, which has been in the news lately, is a corporate funded conservative group composed of lobbyists and elected officials that often drafts and votes on legislative language on a variety of issues that undermine the health and safety of the American public. Their initiatives include measures to weaken labor and environmental laws, and most notoriously, "Stand Your Ground" laws, such as the one being used as a defense in the murder of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

It should come as no surprise then that ALEC also drafted and adopted a resolution pertaining to relaxed federal protections for coal ash.

Currently, no federal coal ash safeguards exist. A 2008 coal ash spill in Kingston, TN, motivated the EPA to propose the first ever federal rules regarding safe disposal of coal ash in 2010. After a lengthy public hearing process, those rules are still pending final approval.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
20 April 2012, 10:54 AM
House panders to Big Coal, allowing risks of spills and poisoning
A cloud of highly toxic coal ash is seen blowing like a sandstorm straight at the homes on the Moapa River Reservation, one of many communities across the country at risk from unregulated coal ash dump sites. (Photo by Moapa Band of Paiutes)

The House’s embrace of David McKinley’s (R-WV) amendment and its attachment to the transportation bill is nothing short of a deadly betrayal of public health. This measure ensures that the nation’s dangerous and leaking coal ash ponds and landfills will continue to operate indefinitely without regulation or federal oversight. If it passes the Senate, it may be the most effective protection of Big Coal ever enacted by Congress.

Clearly such protection is at the expense of thousands of communities where toxic coal ash is dumped into drinking water, stacked high above towns, and blown into the lungs of children. The House has conveniently forgotten the largest toxic waste spill in U.S. history, which occurred in 2008 when a coal ash pond collapsed onto a riverside town in Kingston, TN, sweeping away houses and permanently destroying a community.

Instead of addressing the nationwide problem, the House amendment prevents the EPA from regulating coal ash and setting minimum standards for safe disposal. As a result, disposal of banana peels and other household trash would be more stringently regulated in the U.S. than the dumping of toxic ash.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
04 April 2012, 9:57 AM
11 public interest groups sue EPA for a coal ash rule
Coal ash landfill in Tennessee

Today, 3 years after the largest toxic waste spill in U.S. history, 11 environmental and public health groups will file a lawsuit to force the Environmental Protection Agency to complete its rulemaking and finalize public health safeguards against coal ash pollution.

The EPA has delayed federal protection for decades despite overwhelming evidence that carcinogenic, neurotoxic, mutagenic and other disease-causing chemicals are leaking from coal ash ponds, landfills and fill sites across the U.S.  High on the list of pollutants flowing from coal ash dumps are arsenic, hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, selenium and thallium.

Delay is the deadliest form of denial.  Delay denies justice.  The EPA’s delay in issuing a coal ash rule places thousands of communities in harm’s way from contaminated drinking water, dangerous dust and potentially deadly coal ash dam failures.  We seek an end to that delay by asking a court to set a date certain for the review and revision of ineffective regulations governing one of the largest toxic waste streams generated by U.S. industry. 

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View Russ Maddox's blog posts
30 March 2012, 6:53 AM
Soil, water and air often contaminated by coal ash in Fairbanks
Picture of coal ash site in Fairbanks, Alaska

(Russ Maddox is an Alaska Chapter Sierra Club volunteer.)

As the rest of the nation wakes up and begins to realize how damaging wanton handling and disposal of coal ash truly is, regulators and leaders in Alaska continue to keep their heads buried in the sand, or in this case, coal ash.

The forests of Alaska’s interior fueled the early gold rush. When they became scarce the railroad was pushed south to the coal fields of Nenana to fuel the steamships, massive dredges necessary to access and extract the gold.

These days it’s difficult to tell which hills are natural and which are just massive piles of mine tailings and waste. Along with the coal rush that fueled and heated the gold rush came millions of tons of coal ash. With the majority of the lowlands being wetlands and subject to periodic floods, coal ash was seen as a valuable resource for filling in low areas for development. Peat was mined for use as topsoil to support what was once a thriving local agriculture. Coal ash was and is still routinely used to refill the leftover peat pits to prepare them for development.

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