Members of Congress are going to hear from coal ash activists this week. But it’s going to be more than just phone calls and emails; 45 citizens from nine states are flying to Washington D.C. to tell their coal ash stories to elected representatives and administration officials.
It’s been nearly a year since the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the nation’s first federal standard for coal ash ponds and dumps. Their two-option plan would either regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste, ensuring strong protections and monitoring requirements, or regulate it as non-hazardous waste, leaving discretion up to the states and endangering the drinking water supplies for thousands of communities near these toxic dumps.
Folks headed to D.C. are sending a simple message: delays in strong, federally enforceable coal ash safeguards have real impacts on the lives of millions of Americans. These coal ash activists want their representatives, senators and White House officials to realize that real people live with coal ash problems every day in communities and towns in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
Last month, EPA officials said it was unlikely that the agency would complete coal ash regulations in 2011. Last week, Rep. David B. McKinley (R-WV) introduced a bill in Congress that would prohibit the EPA from moving forward with plans to classify coal ash as a hazardous waste. For the nearly half million people who commented on the EPA’s proposal, along with the millions more who are drinking contaminated water or breathing dirty air from nearby coal ash dumps, these delays are unacceptable.
Coal ash activists coming to D.C. want the agency and Congress to understand that coal ash can be regulated as hazardous waste, and should be done so immediately. Lives are at stake, and any further delay by the EPA or Congress is simply irrational and dangerous.