Senate Coal Ash Bill Derails First-Ever Protections Despite Major Contamination

Earthjustice statement on Senators Hoeven (R-ND) and Manchin (D-WV) bill


Alyssa Ritterstein, Earthjustice, (202) 797-5243


Yesterday, Senators Hoeven (R-ND) and Manchin (D-WV) introduced a new bill seeking to eliminate, weaken and delay protections in the long-awaited and first-ever national coal ash rule, before it’s even implemented. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule sets public health safeguards intended to prevent coal ash from contaminating communities’ water and air.

Since the massive Kingston, Tennessee spill in 2008, there have been three more major coal ash spills—not including water contamination from coal ash at more than 200 sites in 37 states. In North Carolina, many communities are unable to drink their water because of toxic chemicals leaking from coal ash ponds.

Statement from Andrea Delgado, Sr. Legislative Representative, Earthjustice

“Instead of trying to keep our waters drinkable and air breathable, Senators Hoeven and Manchin are trying to keep our families vulnerable to more coal ash contamination. This bill is a gratuitous attack on basic health and safety requirements, which are especially important for states that have been operating without any for decades.”


The coal ash rule establishes minimum disposal standards that apply to more than 1,000 coal ash dumps throughout the U.S. The rule includes safeguards addressing toxic dust, structural stability of dams impounding coal ash, design standards to prevent, detect and cleanup toxic leaks from coal ash dumps, and reporting of monitoring data and spills on a publicly available website. The rule also encourages closure within three years of inactive coal ash ponds. The EPA rule sets standards that are applicable to power plants and dumps in all 50 states.

The rule also puts in place safeguards for large “fill” projects, where dangerous volumes of coal ash are disposed in the guise of “beneficial” reuse. While the EPA rule exempts legitimate beneficial reuse of coal ash, it also requires those who use quantities of coal ash over 12,400 tons, equivalent to a football field with ash stacked six feet high, to document that such use will not be harmful to health or the environment.

The aftermath of the TVA coal ash spill.
The aftermath of the TVA coal ash spill. ()

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