90 Days to Tell the EPA We Want Strong Safeguards on Coal Ash

Agency offers two options for coal ash: one good, one very, very bad

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency started the 90-day clock for public comments on its plans to set federal safeguards for millions of tons of dangerous coal ash wastee currently being stored in dry dumps and waste ponds. This means we’ve got three months to set the EPA on a straight course towards the first ever strong, federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash. And judging from the current proposal, it seems like the EPA can use our help.

The EPA has set two separate options for regulating coal ash. The first option classifies the nasty byproduct of coal-fired power plants as a "special waste," with strong, federally enforceable requirements for water monitoring and cleanup of the hundreds of dry dumps and wet waste ponds across the country. The second option, which is the favored approach by the polluters and companies responsible for the coal ash, offerws only guidelines that leave many communitites at risk of exposure to the toxic pollutants found in coal ash.

According to the EPA, if the weaker coal ash option were put in place, coal ash dumps and waste ponds in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming will retain their status quo: poorly regulated, unprotected and unsafe. Even in Tennessee, where in December 2008 a coal ash pond in Kingston collapsed, spilling over 1 billion gallons of the toxic waste across 300 acres, will not have protections in place to prevent a similar disaster from happening again.

Coal industry lobbyists have been pushing their power and influence in Washington in the lead up to this proposal. The EPA tried to stand up against the push of the coal industry lobbyists, but the two-option proposal for regulating coal ash was released.

So now we’ve got 90 days to tell the EPA that we want strong, federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash. There will be public hearings later this summer and we’ll have many different ways for you to take action and help the EPA stand up against the influence of coal industry lobbyists.

Jared was the head coach of Earthjustice's advocacy campaign team from 2004 to 2014.

Earthjustice’s Washington, D.C., office works at the federal level to prevent air and water pollution, combat climate change, and protect natural areas. We also work with communities in the Mid-Atlantic region and elsewhere to address severe local environmental health problems, including exposures to dangerous air contaminants in toxic hot spots, sewage backups and overflows, chemical disasters, and contamination of drinking water. The D.C. office has been in operation since 1978.