Target: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
Goal: Speed up the adoption of toxic coal ash regulations
In 2012, a ForceChange petition urged Congress to reject part of a transportation bill that would have stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to effectively regulate coal ash, a toxic residue from the burning of coal in power plants. When that bill later came to the floor for a vote, that provision had been dropped. Coal ash contains dangerous heavy metals such as lead and selenium, and is often stored in so called “ponds” near power plants.
When two of these ponds broke their containment recently, the EPA was pressured by the public to do something to prevent future disasters from happening. Even though the 2012 congressional action preserved the EPA’s authority in the matter, to date nothing has been done.
In May, the EPA is expected to finish work on a revision of water pollution discharge standards that haven’t been updated since 1982. Coal ash is often mixed with water for ease of handling, and thus is brought to the ponds for storage. But the ponds won’t face regulation until the EPA finalizes rules regarding them.
When the containment of a coal ash pond fails, it jeopardizes the safety of residents in the area, who not only face serious health hazards but sometimes are at risk of losing their homes, as happened in a massive 2008 pond failure in Tennessee. More recently, a pipe at the bottom of a coal ash pond burst, spewing its contents into a nearby river.
Despite heavy opposition from industry, the EPA must move while it can before another attempt is made to prevent the Agency from performing a duty that clearly falls within its established bailiwick.
Dear EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy,
Action is needed now to regulate the operation of coal ash ponds. These ponds are no different than toxic waste dumps that are already regulated, and if the EPA doesn’t step in to put standards in place that can prevent serious harm to those citizens who live in proximity to them, more disasters are bound to happen.
It was a great victory when you avoided attempts by some members of Congress to make the EPA impotent in the matter. However these officials are sure to try again. The sooner you can put rules in place, the greater the likelihood that the lives and property of coal ash pond neighbors, including the environment, can be protected.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons