Are Toxic Coal Ash Ponds Confidential Business Information?

Industry thinks so, but Earthjustice disagrees

This page was published 14 years ago. Find the latest on Earthjustice’s work.

Almost one year ago, a dyke holding back the 40-acre coal ash pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant broke, releasing more than 500 million gallons of toxic coal ash. The sludge (six feet deep in some places) spread out over 400 acres, damaged 12 homes, and wrecked a train. It was the largest human-induced environmental disaster since Chernobyl.

For the last year, Earthjustice and our partners have worked to reveal the location and contents of toxic coal ash ponds around the United States. We have had some notable success.

But some companies like Duke Energy, Alabama Power, Georgia Power and First Energy asked the EPA to withhold the information, claiming it is "confidential business information." We filed a complaint late Tuesday in federal district court under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the withheld information because we believe access to it is vital to the health and safety of those living near these potentially hazardous sites.

Toxic waste protected as a "trade secret?"

Now we’ve heard everything.

An Earthjustice staff member from 1999 until 2015, Brian used outreach and partnership skills to cover many issues, including advocacy campaign efforts to promote a healthy ocean.

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.