Public Demands End to Trump EPA Plan to Delay Implementation of Crucial Clean Water Protections

EPA holds public hearing on proposal to postpone compliance on wastewater regulations for coal-fired powerplants


Jenifer Collins, Legislative Representative, Earthjustice, (321) 591-1931


Mychal Ozaeta, Associate Attorney, Earthjustice, (215) 717-4529

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is holding a public hearing on a proposal to postpone indefinitely critical public health protections  for cleaning up toxic water pollution from power plants. Community leaders and environmental groups are disgusted with the delay that keeps in place decades-old power plant wastewater standards that contain no specific limits on the amount of toxic pollutants such as arsenic, mercury, and lead that power plants are allowed to dump into our waters. 

The new standards that EPA seeks to put on hold were finalized in 2015 to modernize outdated 1982 rules on toxic discharges produced by coal-burning power plants under the Clean Water Act. Less than two months after the Trump Administration took office, industry petitioned EPA to reconsider the standards.  EPA found when it issued these public health protections that they only required industry to install readily available, affordable wastewater treatment technologies, but EPA is now seeking to postpone compliance for the 2015 rule while the agency reconsiders it. 

Community members, who will be at the hearing, demand that common sense safeguards be implemented.  

“Navajo communities, especially those near the Four Corners Power Plant located in the southwestern United States, have suffered more than 50 years of uncorrelated health disparities, most likely caused by exposure to coal ash leakage,” said Dáilan J. Long a Tribal citizen from Burnham, New Mexico. “We oppose the EPA proposal to delay compliance by the agency charged with the responsibility to ensure the health and safety of the public, and demand immediate compliance with deadlines set in the 2015 rule.”

“President Trump’s attempt to delay EPA protections from coal plant companies’ toxic water pollution will be devastating to communities with a long history of pollution like Waukegan,” said Dulce Ortiz, a community activist with Clean Power Lake County in Waukegan, IL. “Our economic future depends on a new course, beyond industrial pollution, for a healthier Lake Michigan. The NRG coal plant discharges over 8 million gallons of dangerous water pollution, including coal ash wastewater, every  day directly into Lake Michigan. If Donald Trump refuses to protect our communities, it’s up our states and local municipalities to take action.”  

Coal power plants are the largest source of toxic water pollution in America.  The metals and other chemicals in their wastewater can cause severe health problems like cancer, lowered IQ among children and deformities. These toxins also harm wildlife living in and around the contaminated water. 

Mychal Ozaeta, Earthjustice attorney representing environmental groups challenging the hold in court said, “Water is one of our most critical resources. The people of this country should not have to be concerned with whether the EPA is protecting the quality of the water they drink, swim and fish in.”

“The EPA freezing the new standards threatens to the health of wildlife and communities dependent on Illinois rivers for their livelihood and recreation.” said Andrew Rehn, Water Resources Engineer for Prairie Rivers Network. We should not be stuck with pollution technology from the 1980s when EPA has newly updated standards. We can, and should, do better.”

The finalized protections would prevent more than 1 billion pounds of pollutants from being dumped into our nation’s rivers and lakes each year. 

This EPA decision rejects years of rigorous scientific research and strong public support. Delaying implementation of the rule is a violation of the law and a blatant gift to industry at the expense of public health and the environment. 

A power plant located next to a waterway.
Power plants are the biggest sources of water pollution in the country. Power plant water discharges are filled with toxic pollution such as mercury, arsenic, lead, and selenium. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Photo)

Additional Resources

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.