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Fighting for Federal Regulation of Coal Ash

The devastating coal ash spill in Kingston, TN, in December of 2008.

The devastating coal ash spill in Kingston, TN, in December of 2008.

Photo by Tennessee Valley Authority

What's at Stake

Earthjustice is suing the federal government to adopt federal protections for coal ash, which contains toxic chemicals like arsenic, mercury and lead, is dumped into unlined and unmonitored pits and landfills every day, threatening drinking water supplies, aquatic life and public health.

Case Overview

A few years ago, the American public had never heard of coal ash. But on December 22, 2008, one billion gallons of the toxic sludge erupted from a holding pond in Tennessee and buried local homes, shorefront and miles of river —and coal ash burst onto the national stage.

Coal ash is the toxic waste that remains after coal is burned—it’s loaded with dangerous heavy metals that can cause cancer, reproductive harm and other diseases. Despite the national attention after the Tennessee disaster and the presence of more than a thousand other unsafe dump sites across the country, the EPA has scarcely lifted a finger to protect the American public from this danger.

On behalf of 10 public interest groups and the Moapa Band of Paiutes, Earthjustice sued the federal government to adopt coal ash protections.

Related Features

A Toxic Inheritance

The nation’s worst coal ash spill was scooped up from a prosperous community and dumped across state lines into the lives of a low-income community. Read how Alabama's Perry County is fighting back.

Case Updates

July 8, 2014 | Blog Post

Coal Ash Stories Come to Washington

Federal coal ash protections are due in December, provided Congress doesn't get in the way. Citizens arrived in Washington to tell their coal ash stories.

April 28, 2014 | In the News: Marketplace

Coal Ash = Environmental Win (When You Recycle It)

The Environmental Protection Agency endorsed mixing coal ash into cement as an alternative to storing it in ponds, claiming it makes cement stronger and emits less emissions than other cement refining techniques. Mixing coal ash into cement could also prevent toxins such as arsenic, lead and mercury from contaminating groundwater. “I think characterizing it as a ‘win’ would be accurate. If you’re going to make coal ash in the first place, locking it up in concrete is preferable to a lot of the other ways we use or dispose of coal ash,” said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans.

February 24, 2014 | Blog Post

NC Regulators Ding Duke for a Penny Per Toxic Ton

Duke Energy's $99,000 penalty was nothing—it's like one of us, earning $50,000 a year, getting fined $1.90. Barely amounting to a library fine, this is no deterrent for the likes of Duke.

February 6, 2014 | Blog Post

NC Coal Ash Spill Demonstrates Urgent Need to Close Ponds

The EPA doesn’t need yet another reason to require the safe closure of the nation’s 1,070 coal ash ponds. But the massive leak of 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash from Duke Energy’s Dan River Power Station this week should set off a siren to wake our sleeping regulators.

January 30, 2014 | Blog Post

Celebrating An Historic Agreement on Coal Ash

On January 29, 2014, the Department of Justice on behalf of the EPA lodged a consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that requires the EPA to publish a final rule addressing the disposal of coal ash by Dec. 19, 2014.