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.


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
08 March 2011, 11:28 AM
19 Congressmen oppose a rule designed to save the lives of their constituents

When members of the House of Representatives return to their districts for April recess, many should be called to task for supporting a budget rider that would kill a coal ash rulemaking designed to protect the health, homes and livelihood of their constituents.

How, for example, can one explain the voting record of most of the 25 congressmen whose districts host 49 high hazard coal ash dams  - those impoundments of toxic waste that, by definition, are likely to take human lives if they break?

In a rational world, every one of those members would support an EPA rulemaking that requires the phase-out of these deadly impoundments and the conversion to recycling systems and safer dry disposal. But 16 Republicans and three Democratic congressmen in a dozen states whose districts host at least one, and sometimes several, high hazard ponds, voted for a rider that prevents EPA from requiring such a phase-out.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
02 March 2011, 5:45 AM
When regulators and polluters forget the lessons of Tennessee
Tennessee coal ash spill

If you live in Indiana, it’s best not to live below one of the state’s 53 coal ash dams.

The state’s laissez-fare attitude toward these deadly structures has created a potentially disastrous public hazard. Recent dam breaks in Indianapolis should have sounded the alarm, but apparently it takes more than 30 million gallons of toxic waste to get the state’s attention. Even a failing report card last month from EPA inspectors hardly raised an eyebrow.  The colossal collapse in 2008 of TVA’s high hazard dam in Harriman, Tennessee is apparently a distant memory in the Hoosier State.

But forgetting this lesson may place thousands in harm’s way.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
23 February 2011, 7:29 AM
The House’s rabid attack on EPA authority to regulate coal ash
Rep. David McKinley's amendment ties the EPA’s hands on the issue of coal ash—and sweetens the bottom line of industry.

Early Saturday morning, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment to the House budget bill that had nothing to do with trimming the federal deficit, but everything to do with sweetening the bottom line of the likes of Duke Energy, AEP, Ameren and Southern Company.

The House passed this amendment at about two in the morning (when few were watching), This amendment, offered by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), would “prohibit the use of funds by EPA to develop, propose, finalize, implement, administer, or enforce any regulation that identifies or lists fossil fuel combustion waste as hazardous waste subject to regulation.” In short, the amendment would tie EPA’s hands on the issue of coal ash in the middle of its ongoing rulemaking. The only avenue left open to EPA by this amendment would be publication of unenforceable “guidelines” that states would have absolutely no obligation to adopt. 

The amendment would prevent EPA from setting enforceable national standards, thus guaranteeing that power plants in the dirtiest coal-burning states, such as Texas, Indiana, Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio, would continue to dump ash and sludge in unlined pits and ponds that threaten the communities nearby (and below) their enormous toxic dump sites.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
16 February 2011, 7:53 AM
Theft of protections against toxic coal ash is on House agenda
Aerial view of coal spill in Kingston, Tennessee

The highwaymen of the 112th Congress are trying to take away the authority of the EPA and rob the will of the people on a variety of critical public health and environmental issues by attaching riders to the House budget bill (the Continuing Resolution). The spending legislation introduced by the House Appropriations Committee this week would not only slash billions of dollars from programs protecting public health by ensuring clean water and air, but it would also undo or block key environmental initiatives.

While belt-tightening is a necessity, the special interest giveaways and legislative earmarks protecting big polluters are no less than highway robbery. Their attempt to pillage vital health protections guaranteed by our federal environmental statutes threatens the quality of our air and water, and places our most vulnerable communities and citizens at great risk.

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View Vernice Miller-Travis's blog posts
09 February 2011, 7:47 AM
Federal oversight needed to clean up Chesapeake Bay

(This is the latest in a weekly series of 50 Tr-Ash Talk blogs discussing the dangers of coal ash. Earthjustice hopes that by December 2011, the third anniversary of the TVA coal ash spill, the EPA will release a coal ash rule establishing federally enforceable regulations ensuring the safe disposal of this toxic waste. Vernice Miller-Travis is the Vice Chair of the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities.)

One of the biggest environmental challenges in Maryland is protecting and improving the quality of the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. There are hundreds of rivers and streams that traverse our state, many of which feed into the Chesapeake Bay. Though we are a thoroughly modern state, we are also a state that has a large agricultural base, and a huge part of our economy is based on seafood, which generations of Waterman have fished out of the Chesapeake Bay. We are famous for our blue crabs and oysters.  

Here in Maryland, we are having our own version of a national debate at the local level. The vast majority of our electric power is produced at coal-fired power plants across the state. Already, several documented instances of violations of the Clean Water Act have been identified at coal ash landfills and impoundment sites in our state. Maryland is home to multiple coal combustion waste sites that have contaminated drinking water wells and polluted surface waters and the environment with arsenic, cadmium, selenium, nickel, thallium and other toxic pollutants.

Our state Attorney General’s office and the Maryland Department of the Environment have filed a lawsuit against Mirant Mid-Atlantic, LLC and Mirant Maryland Ash Management, LLC for violations of the Clean Water Act at the Mirant Faulkner coal combustion waste landfill in Charles County, and the Mirant Brandywine coal combustion waste landfill in Prince George’s County not far from the banks of the Patuxent River, a major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay.

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
01 February 2011, 12:36 PM
Dangerous Form of Chromium Unregulated in Coal Ash
TVA coal ash spill. Photo courtesy

(Barb Gottlieb of Physicians for Social Responsibility contributed to this report.)

Just three weeks ago, after a study found chromium, a toxic heavy metal, in tap water in 31 of 35 U.S. cities tested, the Environmental Protection Agency issued new guidelines recommending that all public water utilities test their drinking water for hexavalent chromium or Cr(VI). But, EPA’s well-placed concern for protection of public health has a dangerous blind spot. While government regulators express concern for small quantities of the cancer-causing substance in our water, they are ignoring one of the largest sources of the hazardous chemical—coal combustion waste (or coal ash) from the nation’s coal burning power plants.

A new report by Earthjustice, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Environmental Integrity Project documents the threat to health from chromium VI leaching from coal ash disposal sites across the country. Our report is timely, as today the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is holding an oversight hearing on the threat to the nation’s drinking water from hexavalent chromium and other contaminants.

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View Emily Enderle's blog posts
26 January 2011, 12:59 PM
Cost benefit analysis flawed
Sarah McCoin stands along Swan Pond Circle Road near the TVA Kingston Power Plant.

(This is the latest in a weekly series of 50 Tr-Ash Talk blogs discussing the dangers of coal ash. Earthjustice hopes that by December 2011, the third anniversary of the TVA coal ash spill, the EPA will release a coal ash rule establishing federally enforceable regulations ensuring the safe disposal of this toxic waste.)

Today, the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations heard Office of Management and Budget (OMB) official Cass Sunstein speak on the Obama Administration’s view of regulatory reform. Sunstein trumpeted the economic benefits of President Obama’s new Executive Order – Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.

President Obama’s new executive order, publicly announced in a Wall Street Journal article is widely regarded as a giveaway to industry, providing a set of economic criteria to consider when developing, changing or repealing regulations. This reinforces the administration’s stance on weighing economic costs against public health benefits using techniques like cost-benefit analysis. Cost-benefit analysis attempts to monetize the actual impacts of regulations like missed school and work days due to sickness, deaths from cancer resulting from exposure to pollution as well as economic impacts. While this is theoretically a useful tool, the analysis has a long list of shortcomings that ultimately results in uncalculated, therefore unconsidered, harm to our health, environment and wallets. In the case of the coal ash rule, the analysis was grossly inaccurate, resulting in a cost figure more than 20 times the actual number ($23 billion vs. $1.5 billion).

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
18 January 2011, 4:29 PM
Low-income community rebels against proposed 15-story toxic coal ash landfill
TVA landfill full of coal ash

(This is the latest in a weekly series of 50 Tr-Ash Talk blogs discussing the dangers of coal ash. Earthjustice hopes that by December 2011, the third anniversary of the TVA coal ash spill, the EPA will release a coal ash rule establishing federally enforceable regulations ensuring the safe disposal of this toxic waste.)

The average home value in Round O, South Carolina, is just above $66K. The average household income is below $30K. And now, according to an article in a local newspaper, a power company plans on building a site to store toxic coal ash from its coal plant nearby.

Is it coincidental that these impoundments are often built near low-income communities? We think not. It’s a known phenomenon that low-income and people of color neighborhoods across the country face disproportionately high levels of air and water pollution and exposure to toxic waste and other health hazards because federal environmental laws often are not fairly enforced. And sadly, Round O, fits the profile.

While we wait on the EPA to release a federally enforceable coal ash rule that would ensure the safe disposal of this toxic waste, President Barack Obama has signed an executive order that aims to achieve "balance" in federal regulations -- between ensuring public health and safety and promoting economic growth.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
12 January 2011, 2:17 PM
Scientists Allege EPA Underestimated Risk

(The following is the first in a weekly series of 50 upcoming Tr-Ash Talk blogs discussing the dangers of coal ash. Earthjustice hopes that by December 2011, the third anniversary of the TVA coal ash spill, the EPA will release a coal ash rule establishing federally enforceable regulations ensuring the safe disposal of this toxic waste.)

Arsenic, one of the most potent poisons known to man, is found in coal ash. It is well documented that coal ash leaks dangerous quantities of arsenic to drinking water when dumped in unlined pits and ponds. In fact, in an EPA analysis the agency acknowledges that people living near unlined coal ash ponds can face as much as a one-in-50 chance of getting cancer from drinking water contaminated by arsenic. This risk is 2,000 times greater than the EPA’s goal for reducing cancer risk to one-in-100,000. Yet, four renowned arsenic experts found that this EPA risk assessment underestimates the risk of cancer from arsenic by a factor of over 17 times.

In a letter to EPA, medical toxicologist Dr. Michael Kosnett along with three senior scientists explain that the EPA relied on an outdated “cancer slope factor” (CSF) that is 17.3 times less than the updated CSF for arsenic. The scientists therefore recommend revision of the EPA’s risk estimates.

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