Congressional Hearing Ignores Poor Record of State Coal Ash Regulation

Lack of federal protections means unregulated coal ash ponds continue to poison rivers, people


Jared Saylor, Earthjustice, (202) 745-5213

The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy is holding a hearing today on the role of the states in protecting the environment. One topic under attack is the pending effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal. Coal ash—America’s second largest industrial waste stream—contains dangerous toxic metals such as mercury, lead, arsenic and selenium. But despite the threat, no federal regulations exist. Household garbage is better regulated than this toxic menace.

In 2008, one billion gallons of toxic coal ash spilled from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant. The spill covered 300 acres, destroyed homes, poisoned rivers and contaminated coves and residential drinking waters. (TVA)

The following statement is from Earthjustice legislative representative, Andrea Delgado:

"What the subcommittee is conveniently forgetting is that weak or non-existent state regulations have done little to limit the arsenic, lead, and selenium from coal ash that has already poisoned lakes, streams, rivers and aquifers at more than 200 sites nationwide. Federal protection against coal ash ensures that every state must follow the rules and protect the waters that provide drinking water for millions of Americans. State regulations have done nothing of the sort.

"The coal ash disaster in Tennessee in 2008 was a result of an unregulated and unmonitored dam. State regulations did not require oversight of this coal ash pond and as a result, two dozen homes were damaged or destroyed, 300 acres were completely flooded and two rivers were poisoned. There are nearly 1,500 other coal ash dams and landfills that remain unregulated. Do we really need another coal ash disaster before opponents to protecting the public realize that the states aren’t doing enough? Last time it was Tennessee, next time it could be North Carolina or any of the many states that are home to significant and high hazard coal ash dams."

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