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Tr-Ash Talk

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.

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.

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.

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.

(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.

Across the country, communities near retiring coal plants are breathing collective sighs of relief. Closures, however, raise vexing questions about the millions of tons of toxic waste that may lie beneath the surface. Over decades, most plants have buried battleship-sized deposits of coal ash in landfills and lagoons near their plants. In the absence of federal mandates, utilities may leave behind a leaking legacy of deadly pollution, even after the belching stacks are long gone.

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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. Learn more about Earthjustice.