It’s Groundhog Day in the House of Representatives. Once again, coal company allies are leading a charge to pass a symbolic vote that would reinforce their disdain for any plans to clean up coal ash ponds and landfills with federal minimum safeguards. But the symbolism has real-world impacts: nearly 200 coal ash sites have already contaminated nearby lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers with dangerous chemicals that cause cancer, organ damage and even death.
The Latest On: Coal Ash
So, you’d think we’d all be in agreement here: clean water is a boon for everyone. That means, keep coal ash (full of mercury, arsenic, hexavalent chromium and other nasty stuff) out of our drinking water, right? Sadly, that doesn’t hold true for everyone. Some members of the House of Representatives think that funding 2.9 million jobs via the transportation bill is a great opportunity to shove in a measure that will block the EPA from ever regulating coal ash on a federal level.
Scratch your heads. It doesn’t make sense to us, either.
The Progress Energy plant in Asheville, NC operates two of the nation's tallest high-hazard coal-ash ponds. “High-hazard” means that if either of the pond’s decades-old earthen dams were to break, loss of life would be likely. In Asheville, such a break would completely swamp the French Broad River and Interstate 26.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that Common Cause, a nonprofit watchdog group, was using thousands of documents it received to bolster a claim that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) violates its nonprofit status by practicing in state and federal lobbying.
The House’s embrace of David McKinley’s (R-WV) amendment and its attachment to the transportation bill is nothing short of a deadly betrayal of public health. This measure ensures that the nation’s dangerous and leaking coal ash ponds and landfills will continue to operate indefinitely without regulation or federal oversight. If it passes the Senate, it may be the most effective protection of Big Coal ever enacted by Congress.
Today, 3 years after the largest toxic waste spill in U.S. history, 11 environmental and public health groups will file a lawsuit to force the Environmental Protection Agency to complete its rulemaking and finalize public health safeguards against coal ash pollution.
(Russ Maddox is an Alaska Chapter Sierra Club volunteer.)
As the rest of the nation wakes up and begins to realize how damaging wanton handling and disposal of coal ash truly is, regulators and leaders in Alaska continue to keep their heads buried in the sand, or in this case, coal ash.
The forests of Alaska’s interior fueled the early gold rush. When they became scarce the railroad was pushed south to the coal fields of Nenana to fuel the steamships, massive dredges necessary to access and extract the gold.