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Tr-Ash Talk

East Tennessee is not known for its population of environmental activists, but last fall hundreds of people turned up in Knoxville to ask the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt a special waste designation for coal ash. Support for EPA’s public health and environmental safeguard is strong here because the 2008 Kingston coal ash disaster occurred in our backyard, making the danger of toxic coal ash blatantly clear.

The TVA Kingston trial has gotten off to a interesting, yet unsettling start. The trial consists of five cases, representing 250 plaintiffs who are suing TVA over the 2008 coal ash disaster that occurred in Knoxville, TN.

Testimony began last week, and proceedings are expected to continue anywhere from the next few weeks to the next few months. Representatives from TVA have been the first to testify, and so far it has been laden with blame-passing statements that characterize the disjointed nature of the TVA departments.

As a federal trial on the TVA Kingston coal ash disaster continues in Knoxville, some of our elected leaders in Congress are including the coal ash rule (already delayed due to heavy industry opposition) in a list of rules that will be analyzed - and likely even more delayed.

But more on that later.

Last month, Missouri had the dubious distinction of being one of the 12 worst states when it comes to coal ash regulations. In a front-page article that has generated a lot of buzz, residents of Labadie, Missouri have justifiably come together to oppose a new 400-acre coal ash landfill at a site where an existing pond has been leaking – for nearly two decades.

Illinois has the dubious distinction of being a state with one of the worst coal ash regulatory programs in the nation. But what is more outrageous is that no less than 11 Illinois congressmen are pushing to block the U.S. EPA from cleaning up coal ash in the state. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is among them. That’s why when the Prairie Rivers Network and Environmental Integrity Project released a report detailing the risk of coal ash contamination in Illinois,  and in Rep.

A giant cloud of toxic coal ash is seen blowing at the Moapa River Reservation.

It starts with a warning. Then it's just a matter of which way the wind blows.

In the evening, someone will go from house to house and tell the neighborhood that tomorrow will be a windy day and perhaps, a bad air day. The next afternoon—if the conditions are just wrong—a toxic dust called coal ash picks up from the landfills and slag ponds of the coal-fired Reid Gardner Power Station and heads towards the reservation like a sandstorm.

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):

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