EPA Agrees to Deadline for First-Ever U.S. Coal Ash Regulations | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth
Release Date: 
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Press Contact: 
Mary Love
KFTC member
502-541-7434

EPA Agrees to Deadline for First-Ever U.S. Coal Ash Regulations
Environmental litigation prevails, local coal ash communities to gain some protection

Resources

A copy of the settlement can be found HERE 

A timeline of coal ash events from the TVA spill to today’s settlement can be found HERE

An online version of this press release can be found HERE

Additional Contacts

Jared Saylor, Earthjustice
(202) 745-5213 jsaylor@earthjustice.org

Lisa Widawsky-Hallowell, Environmental Integrity Project, (202) 294-3282 lhallowell@environmentalintegrity.org

Kim Teplitzky, Sierra Club
(267) 307-4707
kim.teplitzky@sierraclub.org

Washington, D.C. – Late yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to finalize first-ever federal regulations for the disposal of coal ash by December 19, 2014, according to a settlement in a lawsuit brought by environmental and public health groups and a Native American tribe. The settlement does not dictate the content of the final regulation, but it confirms that the agency will finalize a rule by a date certain after years of delay.

The settlement is in response to a lawsuit brought in 2012 by Earthjustice on behalf of Appalachian Voices (NC); Chesapeake Climate Action Network (MD); Environmental Integrity Project (DC, PA); Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KY); Moapa Band of Paiutes (NV); Montana Environmental Information Center (MT); Physicians for Social Responsibility (DC); Prairie Rivers Network (IL); Sierra Club (CA); Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (eight southeast states); and Western North Carolina Alliance (NC).

"The state of Kentucky regulates the operation of municipal garbage dumps but says nothing about the disposal of coal ash," said KFTC member Mary Love. "I applaud the EPA’s decision to finally set nationwide rules for the disposal of this dangerous waste stream.”

In October, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the EPA has a mandatory duty to review and revise its waste regulations under the Resource and Conservation Recovery Act. The EPA has never finalized any federal regulations for the disposal of coal ash—the nation’s second largest industrial waste stream.

Taking overdue action to safeguard communities from coal ash was the first promise the Obama Administration made to the American public. Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson vowed to finalize coal ash regulations following a spill in Kingston, TN, where over a billion gallons of coal ash burst through a dam and damaged or destroyed two dozen homes and 300 acres of riverfront property. In the aftermath of that disaster, the EPA proposed various regulatory options in May 2010 and held seven public hearings in August and September of that year. Environmental and public health groups, community organizations, Native American tribes and others generated more than 450,000 public comments on EPA’s proposed regulation, calling for the strongest protections under the law. But since then, despite coal ash contamination at more than 200 sites nationwide, the EPA has failed to finalize the protections under pressure from industry, the White House and some members of Congress.

The following statement is made on behalf of the organizations involved in this lawsuit:

“Now we have certainty that EPA is going to take some action to protect us and all of the hundreds of communities across the country that are being poisoned by coal ash dumps. Since the disaster in Kingston, we have seen more tragic spills, and the list of sites where coal ash is contaminating our water keeps growing.  Today, we are celebrating because the rule we need is finally in sight.

“But this deadline alone is not enough. EPA needs to finalize a federally enforceable rule that will clean up the air and water pollution that threatens people in hundreds of communities across the country. Coal ash has already poisoned too many lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater aquifers. It is time to close dangerous unlined ash impoundments like the one that burst at Kingston.

“Utility companies need to stop dumping ash into unlined pits and start safely disposing of ash in properly designed landfills. Groundwater testing is needed at these ash dumps, data needs to be shared with the public, and power companies must act promptly to clean up their mess. A rule that requires anything less than these common-sense safeguards will leave thousands of people who live near ash dumps in harm’s way.”

Kentucky is fifth in the nation is coal ash generation. A 2011 study by Earthjustice found that Kentucky had 43 operating coal ash ponds, 21 of which exceed a height of 25 feet or impound more than 500 acre‐feet of ash. Professional engineers did not design 20 of the state’s 43 dams nor did they construct 27 of them.

Coal ash waste contains toxic chemicals and heavy metals such as arsenic and lead – pollutants that cause cancer, birth defects, reproductive problems, damage to the nervous system and kidneys, and learning disabilities in children. The EPA estimates that up to 1 in 50 nearby residents could get cancer from exposure to contaminants in poorly stored coal ash. Other health effects may include damage to vital organs and the central nervous system, especially in children.

For that reason, KFTC members have called on the EPA to adopt that standard that would treat coal ash as the hazardous waste that it is.

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