Posts tagged: Tr-Ash Talk

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Tr-Ash Talk


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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
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
13 January 2014, 9:46 AM
Overdue rules would ensure polluters pay and prevent the next big spill
The state capitol building in Charleston, WV. (Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock)

In 1980, when Love Canal and Times Beach still dominated headlines, Congress passed Superfund, a bipartisan bill requiring polluters to pay for the cleanup of their toxic messes. Over the last 30 years, Superfund has been responsible for the investigation and cleanup of thousands of toxic sites.

Yet EPA’s 30-year failure to comply with one important provision of Superfund imperils our health and pocketbooks. Superfund contained a mandate that the nation’s most dangerous industries maintain financial assurance (insurance or bonding) to guarantee that polluters would have adequate funds to clean up their spills. The mandate would also provide industries with a financial incentive for safe management of dangerous chemicals. The Act required EPA to begin establishing such requirements no later than 1985.

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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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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
05 December 2013, 11:59 AM
Many of Michigan's waters are poisoned by coal ash. Clean Water Action is spreading the word.
DTE River Rouge Plant in Michigan. (Photo courtesy of Clean Water Action)

“Pure Michigan.”

That’s the ad campaign Michigan is using to entice travelers to visit the Great Lakes state. Whether it’s fishing, swimming, boating or just lounging on the beach. Michigan wants us to know that it’s a great vacation spot.

But what our friends at Clean Water Action in Michigan are showing us is that many of Michigan’s waters aren’t as “pure” as we thought. Coal ash has contaminated many Michigan waters, a silent threat to Michiganders health.

Nic Clark.

In the fourth part of our series leading up to the anniversary of the TVA spill in Kingston, TN, we hear from Nic Clark, state director of Clean Water Action, Michigan. Nic is a native of Michigan and is committed to protecting his home state from toxic coal ash and other pollution.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
27 November 2013, 8:25 AM
How is coal ash dumped at one site hazardous, but beneficial at another?
A portion of the Little Blue Run coal ash impoundment. October 2011.
(© Bob Donnan)

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.

Russ Maddox.

In the third installment of our series leading up to the 5-year anniversary of the coal ash spill in Kingston, TN, we travel to Pennsylvania to hear from Lisa Graves-Marcucci, a community outreach coordinator with the Environmental Integrity Project, and the work being done to clean up the pollution at Little Blue.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
26 November 2013, 11:10 AM
Federal court victory ushers in new health standards
The Kingston coal ash disaster in December 2008. (TVA)

Five years ago, fish biologists scooped up a catfish full of toxic ash from the Kingston coal ash disaster.

Last month, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia brought us one step closer to ensuring such a disaster will never happen again. The court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency must set federal standards to prevent another potentially deadly disaster, protecting aquatic life and the hundreds of communities that live near coal-burning power plants.