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Tr-Ash Talk

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):

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.

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.

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