While we still had hopes to see the first ever coal ash regulations by the end of this year, it seems the EPA might be taking a bit more time before they release their long-awaited proposal. The EPA announced today that, despite repeated claims, it won’t be issuing regulations for coal ash ponds by 2010.
It hasn’t been an easy road for EPA so far. The power industry has used fear mongering and misinformation to pressure EPA to hold off on regulating one of the nation’s biggest wastes, coal ash. Coal ash ponds have poisoned communities and destroyed the environment for decades. It wasn’t until a spill in Harriman, Tennessee last December that the agency and the nation recognized the toxic threat at nearly 600 coal ash ponds across the country.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told Congress her agency was planning to regulate coal ash by the end of this year. Just last month, EPA sent proposed regulations to the Office of Management and Budget, the government agency that reviews these things. But industry pressure has been intense. Power companies have been relentlessly lobbying government officials and spreading misinformation. This March, when EPA asked every power company to deliver data about the size, location, age, and last assessment of their coal ash ponds, a few power companies simply ignored the request, stating the data was "confidential business information."
We continue to hope the EPA does the right thing on this and regulates coal ash as a hazardous waste, with the strongest protections under the law. Communities have been waiting for decades for safeguards against this toxic threat, and it’s time our government stands up to the pressure from polluters and puts protecting public health ahead of profits.