Front Porch Blog

“Beneficial Coal Ash” — Industry Lies and EPA’s Wavering Support

An unannounced change in the EPA’s web page for Coal Combustion Products Partnership (C2P2) may signal a shift in the agency’s stance on reusing toxic coal ash for “beneficial reuse.”

Since July 2, 2010 the informational page has been blank except for a lone note: “The Coal Combustion Products Partnerships (C2P2) program Web pages have been removed while the program is being re-evaluated.”

Every year, 129 million tons of coal ash waste is produced by coal fire power plants in the United States. This toxic fly-ash is made of fine particulates and heavy metals that pose a growing threat to the environment and public health. Yet, the EPA has allowed coal ash waste to be reused in agriculture, construction materials, consumer products, concrete, and even mine filling. Ash that is not reused is stored in billion-gallon ponds, known as slurry ponds, or dumped in landfills.

In late June the EPA proposed two regulation standards for coal ash waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The more stringent option, Subtitle C, would classify coal combustion waste as a hazardous material; however, beneficial reuse would not be regulated under either EPA regulation option. The EPA is currently accepting public comments on the proposed regulation, which you can submit here or through Appalachian Voices in the near future.

The C2P2 program seems a contradictory step for the EPA. Shouldn’t an environmental agency be regulating hazardous materials, not promoting its use in public works, our food supply, or in potential contamination situations? Recent news from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) cites the EPA allowing coal executives to “edit agency reports and fact sheets to downplay risks of coal ash.”

PEER also uncovered the EPA using coal industry research as basis for promoting the reuse program, and filed a formal complaint this month over EPA publications that claim coal ash reuse is a form of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

“We suggest that EPA use this opportunity to honestly review the entire range of potential public health and environmental effects of injecting millions of tons of unquestionably hazardous materials into the stream of commerce,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.

Downplaying the disastrous consequences of the TVA ash spill is impossible, as is denying coal ash’s threat to public health. Through further regulation and dismissal of the “beneficial” factors in coal ash reuse, coal companies may finally begin to pay the real price for an outdated fuel source.





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