U.S. Court of Appeals Hears Arguments on the Legality of Oklahoma’s Coal Ash Program

Concerned Oklahomans are challenging the EPA's approval of the state’s coal ash program.


Miranda Fox, Earthjustice, (415) 283-2324

Edward Smith, Sierra Club

Earl Hatley, LEAD Agency, Inc.

Organizations representing concerned Oklahomans are challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval of the state’s coal ash program. The groups argue that the EPA unlawfully failed to provide adequate public participation and allowed Oklahoma to issue dangerous “permits for life” to coal ash facilities. “Permits for life” deprive the public and regulators of predictable reviews of legal requirements and onsite conditions at coal ash facilities, like what’s required for air emissions and water discharge permits.

“Coal ash is one of the nation’s most abundant sources of toxic waste, which threatens our groundwater in our communities in Oklahoma,” said Earl Hatley, President, LEAD Agency, Inc. “The state must work with the EPA to ensure that the public is protected by establishing appropriate rules for public participation and placing five year renewal limits on all permits. We will not tolerate utilities’ attempts to side-step their responsibility to protect the public from coal ash contamination.” 

Regarding public engagement, the groups argue the EPA did not adequately issue guidelines for public participation as required by law while also failing to respond to significant concerns that concerned citizens were able to file.

“The public must be allowed to engage in a meaningful way in critical government decisions, like the rules established by Oklahoma’s coal ash program, and that didn’t happen here,” said Charles McPhedran, an attorney with Earthjustice. “Adequate public engagement is required under the law and we deserve to have our voices heard.”

Who: Local Environmental Action Demanded Agency, Inc., Sierra Club, and Waterkeeper Alliance. Organizations are represented by Earthjustice.  

What: Oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval of Oklahoma’s coal ash program. Link to reply brief for environmental petitioners.

Where: U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Audio can be streamed through the Court’s website.

When: Wednesday, January 19, 2022 at 9:30AM EST / 8:30AM CST.

Why: Environmental organizations are challenging the EPA’s approval of Oklahoma’s coal ash program by arguing it should be vacated because of five major deficiencies.

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