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Clean up coal ash

Delivery to the Biden administration

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What’s At Stake

For four years, the Trump administration wreaked havoc on the health of the communities where we live and work. They gutted regulations to keep toxics out of your food, removed restrictions to limit mercury exposure, and rolled back protections against coal ash. We need you to call on the Biden administration to reverse the rollbacks and fight coal ash.

We will be relentless in our efforts to undo every bit of the damage the administration has done. One of the key issues we need your help on is coal ash, the toxic residue that remains after coal is burned that impacts the health of millions of people. The Trump administration rolled back the already-too-weak regulations — giving polluting power companies free rein to continue poisoning the communities they claim to serve.

Earthjustice sued both the Obama and Trump administrations to establish and later protect regulations designed to curb coal ash contamination. Now is the time to both restore those safeguards and think big to develop bolder protections that match the scale of the problem. Tell the Biden administration to take decisive action to fight toxic coal ash contamination!

Coal ash is often dumped into unlined pits for storage and disposal — which means it easily reaches our groundwater. Once in our groundwater, it flows into our lakes, rivers, and streams. 91% of regulated coal plants with coal ash ponds and landfills have polluted groundwater with unsafe levels of arsenic, lithium, cadmium, cobalt, selenium, mercury, lead and other toxins.

These toxins cause cancer, respiratory issues, reproductive issues, and neurological impairments — while also making fish in the water unsafe to eat. Between a housing market where low-income communities are only able to get as much distance from the toxins as they can afford, and the deliberate placement of polluting facilities into communities of color by those who would never accept them in their own neighborhoods, the impact of coal ash contamination maintains and exacerbates existing inequities.

As we continue to shut down coal plants and shift to renewable energy, we can’t afford to ignore the continuing impact of coal ash on nearby communities. We need requirements that force polluters to clean up their coal ash and take every action possible to protect water quality and public health. We need to get the data on water contamination from power plants, and we must respond with conviction and urgency when we learn a community’s water is poisoning them. We need President Joe Biden to lead on this issue.

The Trump administration gave coal plants a pass to poison our communities — which is why we need to push the Biden administration hard to undo the damage. The Biden administration can use its authority to take meaningful action to stop the harms of coal ash across the country. Please join us in demanding our government leaders take action to protect our communities and our water.

Alex Garcia

The NIPSCO R.M. Schahfer Generating Station in Wheatfield, IN, Sunday, August 12, 2018.

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

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You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue. Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn more about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.