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July 24, 2010
Tell the EPA to strictly regulate dangerous coal ash disposal
Every year coal-fired power plants in the United States produce more than 130 million tons of coal ash that contains toxics such as arsenic, chromium, lead and mercury. Many states regulate coal ash more loosely than household waste, allowing it to be dumped into landfills and waste ponds, where it threatens drinking water supplies as well as wildlife. In December 2008, more than a billion gallons of fly ash sludge from a Tennessee Valley Authority electric utility waste pond spilled over 300 acres, damaging 40 homes, a river, a lake, roadways and gas pipelines, at a cost of more than a billion dollars. And the Environmental Protection Agency has so far identified 70 additional cases of damages from failed coal ash handling.
The EPA is now considering two options to regulate coal ash waste. Under one option, coal ash would be regulated as other hazardous industrial wastes: the EPA would set protective and federally enforceable standards for its disposal, including storage and handling safeguards, and pollution prevention and monitoring requirements for coal ash landfills. In addition, companies would have to show evidence of insurance to pay for any failures. This option would likely result in the phase-out of dangerous disposal ponds.
The second, and much weaker, option does not provide for federal enforcement. The option's requirements are more comparable to suggestions, and would essentially maintain the status quo where states with most of the coal ash have the weakest regulations. Unsurprisingly, the coal and power industries are supporting this option and opposing stronger regulations.
The EPA is accepting public comments on the two options through September 20th. What to do Send a message, before the September 20th comment deadline, urging the EPA to choose the stronger option that would set protective and federally enforceable regulations for coal ash disposal.