Tell the EPA to clean up toxic coal ash


Supporters spoke up in this action

Delivery to the Environmental Protection Agency

Action ended on April 10, 2023

What Happens Next

What Was At Stake

People living near toxic coal ash dumps across the U.S. are threatened with water poisoned by arsenic, lead, radium, and other heavy metals. Loopholes in the EPA’s rules let polluters at more than 500 coal ash waste sites around the US off the hook for cleaning up the toxic mess they’ve created. Tell the EPA to close these dangerous loopholes and require cleanup at all the nation’s leaking coal ash dumps!

Loopholes exempt waste sites from clean up requirements if new waste hasn’t been added since 2015, but we know these old landfills and toxic sludge ponds are no less a threat to our communities and environment just because of their age. Currently, more than 500 leaking coal ash dumps escape federal regulation for this reason — and many are actively polluting our drinking water and putting our health at risk.

For over a century, utilities have dumped toxic coal ash into unlined pits where it easily reaches our groundwater. Once there, its dangerous chemicals flow into our lakes, rivers, streams and drinking water wells. Ninety-one percent of coal plants have polluted groundwater with unsafe levels of arsenic, lithium, cadmium, cobalt, selenium, radium, lead, and other toxins. These toxins cause cancer, respiratory issues, reproductive harms, neurological impairments, and make fish in the water toxic to eat — impacting communities who rely on fish for sustenance.

Due to EPA exemptions, approximately half of all coal ash in the U.S. — more than a billion tons — remains unregulated! These sites include a 2-million-ton coal ash landfill leaking into Lake Michigan at the Michigan City Generating Station in Indiana; a 90-acre ash landfill poisoning groundwater in Orlando, Florida at the Stanton Energy Center; and a landfill used for 33 years at the TVA Bull Run Plant in Clinton, Tennessee that is leaking arsenic and more into the groundwater.

Coal ash most severely harms low-income, Indigenous, and communities of color, due to more than a century of policy placing polluting facilities in those neighborhoods and vice versa. Shutting down every coal plant in the country is not enough — we must make sure that this toxic legacy is addressed, too.

Time is of the essence. We must continue our push for rules that protect communities from the harms of unsafe coal ash disposal. Please join us in demanding the EPA protect our communities and environment from the threats of legacy ponds and inactive landfills.

The devastating TVA Kingston coal ash spill of 2008.
The aftermath of the devastating coal ash spill at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant near Kingston, Tenn., in 2008. More than 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge burst from a dam, sweeping away homes and contaminating two rivers. (Dot Griffith/ Appalachian Voice via United Mountain Defense)

Your Actions Matter

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

You level the playing field.

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

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.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. 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. Read more.

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. Read more.

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 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.