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In the final witness panel, Tom Kilgore, president and CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority, said that they have posted information on their website.

But as mentioned earlier by Harriman resident Sarah McCoin, many of the residents simply don’t have ready access to the internet and to TVA’s website. Much like if a tree falls in the forest one wonders if it makes a sound, if there is information available on health impacts that doesn’t actually get to the residents who are most affected, does it really serve to protect?

Today's congressional hearing on the Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash spill from last December in Harriman, TN, started out with opening remarks from Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) who said that it’s been "nearly a decade" since this committee held oversight hearings on the Tennessee Valley Authority. She also said the committee maybe plans to continue TVA oversight now every 30 to 60 days.

Minority committee leader Rep. John Boozman from Arkansas said, "New laws will not replace homes…and family treasures," but bet they will certainly do much to make sure that others who live near these coal ash sites don't have to lose their homes or valuable family treasures and heirlooms in another preventable spill.

Rep. Lincoln Davis, whose district is where the TVA spill happened, offered strong words for the committee, saying, "My constituents and the land they live on must be made whole again."

The Republicans seem to be pushing their talking points aggressively: while this particular spill is bad, this doesn't mean coal is bad and there shouldn't be talk of stopping coal burning. It seems like they're not quite able to see the forest for the trees, and despite the nature of this hearing (to find out what went wrong and how it can be prevented) some members just can't resist a small shot at those groups fighting for a cleaner environment.

Sarah McCoin, a Harriman, TN, resident said: "Harriman is now a toxic wasteland, and we urge that guidelines and laws are in place to make sure that this never happens again... residents are scared if they are being exposed... we are a community that hunts fishes and swims in the rivers and we need to be ensured that it is safe to be in the river... Harriman is home to people who rely on the fish for their meals... too many residents are experiencing respiratory problems... we desperately need to have testing for our community to find out if our children are being poisoned…we have been neglected. There are people who have been satisfied but there are many are not."

Strong words from someone who is living in and near this tragedy. Committee is on a break now for a floor vote. More to come later.

UPDATE: There was a lot of confusion and misinterpretation about Tuesday's announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency that it was reviewing mountaintop removal mining permits to assess their potential impact on the waterways and people of Appalachia. Only two permits have been questioned. Dozens are under review. And the EPA is signalling that many of those may not be held up for environmental reasons.

One year ago in this column, I called on Environmental Protection Agency chief Stephen Johnson to resign for letting politics, not science, guide his agency's decisions. Nor was I alone—10,000 EPA employees were in open revolt for the same reason. Johnson was defying the Supreme Court's ruling that his agency should move forward on climate change and was refusing to approve California's forward-looking controls on climate-altering pollution.

Yesterday—10 weeks after a billion-gallon spill of coal ash in Tennessee—two U.S. senators challenged the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate disposal and storage of the toxic sludge.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Thomas Carper (D-DE) submitted a resolution requesting rules "as quickly as possible" and calling on the Tennessee Valley Authority to "be a national leader in technological innovation, low-cost power and environmental stewardship." On Dec. 22, about 1 billion gallons of coal ash burst through a dam at the Tennessee Valley Authority site in Harriman, flooding more than 300 acres with toxic levels of arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium and boron.

Communities have been exposed to the toxic substance, which presents a cancer risk nine times greater than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Yet coal ash is severely under-regulated and exempt from safeguards required of even municipal waste landfills. Earthjustice is calling on the EPA to eventually prohibit the storage of wet coal ash sludge and instead, mandate dry disposal in monitored landfills or safe recycling of the material.

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