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 Raviya Ismail's blog posts
13 July 2011, 8:08 AM
House GOP claims coal ash is OK in your backyard
Rep. David McKinley (R-WV)

Today we’re gearing up for a vote on H.R. 2273, which is Rep. David McKinley’s (R-WV) attempt to give coal companies a get-out-of-jail free card.

Yesterday, House leaders in the Committee on Energy and Commerce discussed the nature of the legislation, which included much spirited back-and-forth dialogue. Among the highlights (and lowlights):

After the author of the bill, Rep. McKinley, threw around these categorically false statements, such as the declaration that coal is “no more toxic than the earth in your front yard” or “no more hazardous than the soil in our back yard,” it seemed that some House leaders just about had enough.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) called the bill out for what it was: “It is a green-light pass for utility companies to dispose of their waste without regard to public health or the environment.”

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
06 July 2011, 12:08 PM
Would freeze funds used by EPA to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste
House buried in Tennessee coal ash flood

We knew this was coming. After the drama this past winter we knew it was likely that the House had something else up their sleeves. Now this.

To break it down, both the Senate and the House must consider appropriations bills (that fund government agencies) and the House is up first. There are all types of anti-environmental goodies contained in this legislation. Coal ash is addressed in Section 434:

None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Environmental Protection Agency to develop, propose, finalize, implement, administer, or enforce any regulation that identifies or lists fossil fuel combustion waste as hazardous waste subject to regulation under subtitle C of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6921 et seq.) or otherwise makes fossil fuel combustion waste subject to regulation under such subtitle. 

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
29 June 2011, 10:46 AM
From Kentucky to Tennessee and West Virginia...
Massive clean-up operations in the aftermath of the 2008 Kingston coal ash spill. (TVA)

A round-up of coal ash in headlines this week:

As we wait for the mark-up to begin on Rep. David McKinley’s (R-WV) legislation that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency from using its authority to protect people from toxic coal ash waste, one group is mad as heck at the congressman’s effort to block these health safeguards. Activists – more than a dozen in all – picketed last week in front of Rep. McKinley’s office in Morgantown, W. Va. The protestors also sent a letter demanding the congressman withdraw the bill in question.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
22 June 2011, 8:38 AM
House bill would prevent federal regulation of coal ash
Rep. David McKinley

Tomorrow morning, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will vote on a bill to eviscerate the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate coal ash, introduced by Rep. David McKinley (WV-R).  To quote Jeff Goodell of Rolling Stone, this is not just a fight about coal ash,  “it's about demonizing the EPA, stalling the clean energy revolution, and putting corporate profits above public health and a sustainable planet.”  Goodell used these words in a recent editorial, referring to the latest corporate nonsense from AEP, the power company that decried its “premature retirement” of plants over half a century old.  While not directly about coal ash, the shoe fits.   

Goodell also is right that this is all about money. 

View Emily Enderle's blog posts
16 June 2011, 8:50 AM
Congressman’s district is home to largest coal ash pond
Rep. David McKinley

Here we go again.

Some of our elected leaders are once more maneuvering to block much-needed health protections against coal ash. Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) has sponsored a bill that would broadly remove federal authority for any regulation of coal ash ever. This bill, if enacted, also would conveniently protect his business interests. In April, Politico exposed Rep. McKinley’s business interest in ensuring that coal ash is not regulated. Rep McKinley owns the largest engineering firm in West Virginia and his company uses coal ash in concrete, as fill for roads and other uses.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
07 June 2011, 1:16 PM
44 senators urge Obama to back off coal ash regulation
Claire McCaskill is among 44 senators calling for coal ash to be treated as a non-hazardous waste.

Okay, so we’ve established the hazards of coal ash. There is no doubt that arsenic, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, selenium and other toxic metals have no business in our drinking water. So why are 44 of our elected leaders calling on the Obama administration to treat coal ash as a NON-hazardous waste?

Let’s back up a bit: the Obama administration announced a few weeks ago that the coal ash rule will not see the light of day until at least 2012. The EPA had considered regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste after the December 2008 toxic coal ash spill  in Tennessee, which sent 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry gushing into the Emory River and surrounding community. We realized there was continued industry pushback for the rule but were disheartened to learn that it would be delayed, given that there are at least 676 coal ash dams in 35 states, including 48 “high hazard” dams (similar to the Kingston TVA site) across the country. Failure of any of these likely would take human life. Another 136 “significant hazard” dams would cause substantial economic and environmental harm if they failed.

There is no refuting the fact that coal ash is toxic and should be kept away from communities.But some of our senators feel otherwise.

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View Emily Enderle's blog posts
02 June 2011, 7:50 AM
Public Health Depends on Strong Power Plant Air Toxics and Coal Ash Standards

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency hosted hearings in Philadelphia, Chicago and Atlanta to hear public comments about their proposal to reduce mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants. If finalized, these health protections will reduce mercury and acid gas emissions by 91 percent, reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 55 percent, and capture toxic chemicals like arsenic and hexavalent chromium.

Where will this toxic soup of pollution end up? Unfortunately, in the toxic coal ash that has already poisoned more than 130 sites across the country. If the EPA doesn’t finalize a Subtitle C coal ash standard, which would designate coal ash a hazardous waste, with a timeline that coincides with cleaning up smokestacks, we’ll see an increased quantity and toxicity of the ash that will pose an even more egregious threat to public health.  

During their testimony last week, many community members who live in the shadows of coal-fired power plants pointed out that controlling power plant air emissions is only a partial fix to protecting people from the toxic pollution produced when burning coal. They live beneath the smokestacks and next to the coal ash dumps. Though the air standard will do wonders to improve air quality in the U.S., without Subtitle C regulation of coal ash, all that toxic gunk collected from the smokestacks will end up in our bodies through contaminated water and breathing in fugitive dust from improperly regulated coal ash disposal sites. 

1 Comment   /  
View Lisa Evans's blog posts
25 May 2011, 12:15 PM
At only 15 cents a ton, toxic coal ash “disappears” quickly in Puerto Rico

The arrogance and disregard for public health of the Virginia-based power giant, AES Corporation, is stunning. In 2002, AES, one of the world’s largest power companies, built a coal-fired power plant in Guayama, Puerto Rico without a solid waste landfill of any kind. Although the 450-MW power plant churns out almost 400,000 tons of toxic coal ash a year, AES has nowhere to safely dispose of the waste. Yet the situation is apparently working out just fine for AES.

From 2003 to 2004, the plant loaded its waste on 10,000-ton barges and sailed for the Dominican Republic. In the DR, AES dumped an estimated 80,000 tons of coal ash along beaches in the port towns of Arroyo Barill and Manzanillo, under the guise of future port “renovations.”  After the ash sat on the beaches for about two years, blowing into a nearby village, the Dominican Republic sued AES in federal court for $80 million in damages and stopped the dumping. In 2009, a civil action was filed against AES, alleging severe birth defects were caused by the coal ash contamination.

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
18 May 2011, 10:32 AM
Nearly a quarter of coal ash ponds assessed receive poor safety ratings
Coal ash storage in Tennessee

Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released final assessment reports that detail the structural integrity of 38 coal ash dams.  The agency began inspecting coal ash dams in May 2009, and EPA contractors have, to date, completed assessments of 228 dams.  Of these 228 coal ash dams, EPA inspectors gave a rating of “poor” to 55 dams, about 24 percent of the total inspected.  Nine “poor” rated dams were identified yesterday in Alabama, Colorado, Louisiana and Texas. 

These 55 poor-rated dams could kill people, devastate communities and cause substantial economic and environmental damage should they fail.  The EPA explicitly tells us this.  Of these 55 dams containing millions of gallons of metal-laden sludge, nine are high hazard dams, meaning that if breached, they would likely take human life and 39 were significant hazard dams, defined as dams that would cause substantial economic and environmental harm if they failed. 

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
11 May 2011, 10:38 AM
Tennessee editorial details need for immediate federal protections
2008 coal ash spill in Tennessee

Another week, another voice calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to release federal coal ash rules. The drumbeat is getting louder, although it feels like the calls are falling on deaf ears. In this editorial by the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Tennessee paper says the EPA’s announcement that the rule might be delayed leaves much uncertainty for industry and communities about how to handle coal ash.

Just a few weeks ago, there was news that the EPA might delay the coal ash rule until the end of 2012 or 2013. As my colleague Lisa Evans details, the rule is already 30 years overdue. Recall that, Tennessee is the site of the Dec. 22, 2008 retention pond rupture, which sent 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry gushing into Kingston and surrounding communities.The editorial goes on to say: