Front Porch Blog

PLEASE CALL CONGRESS: We should regulate Coal Combustion Waste

A coalition of 109 organizations, including Appalachian Voices and the Environmental Integrity Project, is pushing back against Congressmen who do not want to regulate the disposal of coal combustion waste.

Please call your Congressperson and ask him/her not to sign on to letters sponsored by industry that seek weak CCW ”guidelines” that skimp on environmental protections. See below for more details

Urgent response needed – please help us prevent special interests from stalling our efforts for enforceable regulation of coal combustion wastes (CCW):

Congressional leaders, including PA Congressman Tim Holden, are circulating “Dear Colleague” letters seeking to maintain the status quo for disposal of toxic coal combustion wastes (CCW). Industry lobbyists are working hard to convince lawmakers that federal CCW “guidelines,” rather than national disposal standards, are all that is needed to protect human health and the environment: they say current state regulations of coal combustion wastes are “adequate.”

Following the TVA Kingston fly ash disaster, we know otherwise— CCW is toxic, and states are turning a blind eye to regulatory controls in an effort to preserve the so-called beneficial use status of these wastes.

Don’t be fooled—the status quo of patchwork state regulations may save the utility companies money, but it does little to safeguard humans or the environment, particularly our water sources, from the hazards posed by arsenic, mercury, chromium, selenium, and other CCW constituents.

The US EPA’s 2007 Risk Assessment found that communities closest to CCW impoundments can have a 1 in 50 risk of cancer: that’s 2,000 times higher than threshold beyond which the EPA deems any cancer risk to be unacceptable—1 in 100,000.

And, the prestigious National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded that current state practices of calling the wastes “beneficial” did not prove their safety. The NAS recommended a federal regulatory standard and much more scientific studies.

Please join us by calling your Congressperson and asking him/her not to sign on to letters sponsored by industry that seek weak CCW ”guidelines” that skimp on environmental protections. Please ask them to, instead, support the following principles:

  • Consistent and enforceable federal regulations, not guidelines, are needed to prevent coal ash disasters like the TVA spill and more insidious, but no less dangerous and on-going releases.
  • Enforceable federal regulations can simultaneously promote coal ash recycling and protect the public and environment from toxic leaching from coal ash. Federal law already allows the EPA to distinguish between waste disposal and beneficial re-use of wastes. Following this precedent, the EPA can regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste when disposed in a landfill, but as a non-hazardous product when it is safely recycled. EPA has made these distinctions many times before without damaging the market for recycled products.
  • The cost of implementing safe standards is marginal. In 2000, the EPA estimated that the cost of compliance with tailored hazardous waste regulations would be about $1 billion, annually – just 0.4 percent of utility industry sales. In a 2005 report, EPA reduced this cost estimate to $521 million for comparable standards. Even industry estimates of $5-6 billon is reasonable in light of the high risk posed by the waste.

Find your Congressional Members and their phone numbers by clicking on the following link – listing is by state:

Thanks for making these important calls – and for sharing this action alert with your friends, family and colleagues!

Lisa Graves Marcucci
Environmental Integrity Project
PA Coordinator, Community Outreach





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