Demand Greater Protection Against Coal-Burning Plants


Target: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy

Goal: Give communities greater legal standing in order to protect themselves against toxic coal dust

On December 19th the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled the first-ever set of federal coal ash regulations. These new regulations will help communities across the country to defend their water, air, and land from contamination by highly toxic coal ash. While this is definitely a positive step, much more is needed to protect people, wildlife, and the environment.

The EPA stopped short of recognizing coal ash as hazardous waste despite the fact that the ash from coal-burning power plants is known to contain arsenic, lead, chromium, mercury, and selenium, all toxic and carcinogenic substances capable of causing cancer, birth defects, asthma, learning disabilities, neurological disorders, and other serious health conditions. Until now the disposal of coal ash was not regulated. As explained by Mary Ann Hitt of the Sierra Club, “For decades, coal ash has been dumped in the backyards of power plants across the nation, into open-air pits and precarious surface waste ponds along our nation’s waterways. Most of these sites lacked adequate safeguards and left nearby communities at risk of groundwater contamination, air pollution, or large-scale disasters.”

The EPA’s new regulations will empower communities and individuals to take legal action against coal-burning plants in order to defend themselves against coal ash dust contamination to a certain degree, but it is not enough. Tell the EPA that coal dust is hazardous waste and should be handled as such.


Dear Administrator McCarthy,

The EPA’s new regulations regarding coal ash open up new legal avenues for local communities across the country against harmful pollution. This is a positive step forward as people now have some measure of leverage in dealing with companies that were previously held to no account and can make their voices heard rather than suffering in silence. However, this is still not enough.

It is time that the EPA recognize coal ash as exactly what it is – hazardous waste. The ash produced by coal-burning power plants contains highly destructive substances including arsenic, lead, chromium, mercury, and selenium, all of which are harmful to humans, animals, and the environment. Given the established understanding of these substances as highly toxic, carcinogenic, and associated with health risks ranging from cancer to birth defects, to pretend that coal ash is anything less than a highly dangerous pollutant is simply negligent.

The people who live with the prospect of daily exposure to coal ash in the air they breathe, water they drink, and food they eat need the power to stand against this harmful substance. Therefore we, the undersigned, demand that the EPA recognize coal ash as a form of hazardous waste.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Richard Webb via

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271 Signatures

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