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Advocacy Campaign

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives

Across the U.S., nearly all coal-burning power plants have severely contaminated groundwater by disposing of their toxic ash in leaking impoundments and landfills. Hundreds of coal ash ponds must be closed over the next several years.

The new report Cleaning Up Coal Ash For Good will help regulators, policymakers, and communities choose effective coal ash pond closures that protect the environment and public health while also creating jobs and benefiting the economy. Learn more.

The people of La Belle, Pennsylvania, are fighting to clean up coal ash pollution in their neighborhood:

A small community was promised a recreational dream. Instead, they got a toxic nightmare of coal ash:

For decades, coal ash has polluted our waters and our communities. We will not let polluter profits triumph over public health. You can help win this fight.

Coal Ash Is a Hazardous Waste.

Coal ash, the toxic remains of coal burning in power plants, is full of chemicals that cause cancer, developmental disorders and reproductive problems. It poisons our water and kills fish and wildlife.

But despite the threat, both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the White House have done little to protect the waters we drink from coal ash contamination.

Trump’s EPA Weakened Safeguards For Coal Ash Dumps.

After our long court battle to get the first-ever federal safeguards on coal ash dumps, these hard-won protections are now being pulled back. On July 18, 2018, in response to a petition filed by polluters, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced phase one of the rule-making that will weaken the protections outlined in a settlement we won on behalf of ten public interest groups and the Moapa Band of Paiutes.

In its petition, the Utilities Solid Waste Activities Group asked the EPA to lift the safeguards and indefinitely delay critical compliance deadlines. These deadlines include the utilities’ duty to sample drinking water to detect contamination, implement cleanup measures for poisoned drinking water, and close leaking dumps that are releasing hazardous chemicals.

On September 14, 2017, the EPA decided that it would “reconsider” the safeguards on coal ash dumps. In a letter to an industry trade group and to owners of coal-fired power plants, the EPA indicated that it would grant the legal petitions filed by the industrial polluters.

The industry petitions asked for a broad weakening of health and environmental standards, to which the EPA has answered with the announcement of a new rule that will weaken groundwater cleanup standards, weaken drinking water protection standards, extend deadlines for closing unlined leaking ash ponds, permit hundreds of leaking ponds to continue to operate, as well as allow state officials — instead of qualified, professional engineers — to judge whether sites are following the rules.

On Jul. 18, the EPA announced a new rule that will weaken toxic coal ash pollution safeguards and put people at increased risk of associated health threats. But on Aug. 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the 2015 federal safeguards for coal ash dumps do not sufficiently protect communities and the environment from pollution from that toxic waste, casting serious doubt on the legality of the EPA's July revisions, which, among other things, extend the deadline to close leaking unlined coal ash ponds. Read an explanation of the impact of the court ruling

Together, We Will Achieve Strong, Enforceable Protections for Our Water and Our Future.

We fight in the courts for a long-term solution to this toxic menace. And we act on behalf of dozens of clients and coalition partners to defeat legislative attempts to subvert federally enforceable safeguards of coal ash.

We need strong safeguards that protect our health and our environment. Polluters don’t want to clean up their toxic mess and are pressuring the EPA and Congress to ignore this growing problem. But together, we can illuminate the coal ash problem and push decision-makers to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.


Mapping the Coal Ash Contamination

738 coal ash units in 43 states and Puerto Rico reported information in compliance with federal coal ash safeguards. We analyzed the data. Here’s what it said.

The Coal Ash Problem

Coal ash is filled with toxic levels of multiple pollutants—which can poison drinking water sources. See the infographic, and learn how you can help to solve the coal ash problem.