The following statement is from Martin Hayden, vice president for policy and legislation at Earthjustice, regarding the recently announced deal on the federal transportation bill:
“Senate Democrats prevailed in getting toxic coal ash and the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline dropped from the final transportation bill. The Senate deserves credit for rightly rejecting plans passed by the House of Representatives that would have put millions of Americans living near coal ash dump sites at risk. The current House has repeatedly attacked efforts by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to establish the first federal safeguards for dumping toxic coal ash. Despite a massive spill in 2008 that destroyed two dozen homes and 300 acres, and proven water contamination at nearly 200 coal ash sites across the country, some members of Congress want to allow coal ash dumping to continue unabated. If they succeed, household garbage would be better regulated than the cancer-causing pollutants found in coal ash. These attacks are even more unconscionable given yesterday’s release of EPA information revealing the existence of hundreds of previously unknown coal ash ponds and dumps nationwide.
“Now more than ever, the Obama administration and the EPA must act quickly to finalize the federal regulations promised in 2009 to protect these vulnerable communities.
“However, we are very disappointed that the Senate agreed to include a significant weakening of the National Environmental Policy Act, a bedrock environmental law that provides for public information and participation, as it applies to transportation construction projects. Some of these provisions will shut out nearly all stakeholders—including low-income residents and communities of color, landowners, business owners, and local governments—from transportation projects affecting the health, economy, and environment of their local communities.”