Groups Gather to Address Southeast Coal Ash Problems

Advocates, experts and community leaders come together to protect the region’s waterways

Jennifer Rennicks, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 828-275-0564
Stephanie Schweikert, NC Conservation Network, 419-348-2340

Atlanta – This weekend over 80 concerned citizens, environmental and public health advocates, and elected officials from across the Southeast and beyond are converging in Atlanta at the first Southeast Coal Ash Summit. The event is focused on providing information on the science and policy behind protecting the region’s water from coal ash, the toxic waste from coal-fired power plants, and showing how attendees can effectively advocate for stronger protections.

The summit features a keynote address by Georgia State Representative Margaret Mary Oliver, who recently introduced state legislation requiring groundwater monitoring for wet-stored coal ash impoundments and liners for new impoundments in the state. North Carolina State Representative Pricey Harrison, who has also introduced legislation on coal ash, will also speak at the summit.

“As the Southeast continues to have some of the nation’s worst coal ash contamination, EPA continues to delay on this issue,” says Rep. Harrison, “Bringing citizens from across the region together to plan how to create change on all levels, from local to federal, in order to protect their families and their communities, is absolutely critical.”

The dangers of coal ash came to light after the 2008 Kingston, Tennessee disaster in which a massive coal ash dam catastrophically failed. The event released a billion-gallon flood of toxic waste into the Emory and Clinch Rivers, poisoned some 300 acres, and destroyed two-dozen homes. The Southeast is home to over 450 coal ash impoundments and landfills, many are rated high-hazard, meaning that a break would more than likely cause the loss of human life.

The EPA has yet to finalize rules dealing with coal ash storage and disposal. Currently, states are left to decide how to regulate coal ash, the nation’s second-largest waste stream. In many states, guidelines for municipal waste disposal are more stringent than for coal ash.

Appalachian Voices, North Carolina Conservation Network, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Southern Environmental Law Center are hosting the summit. At the end of last year, the groups launched, an interactive website that allows users in the Southeast to find information about coal ash impoundments near their home.

Experts and Community Members for Media Availability

• Stephanie Schweickert, Affiliate Organizer, North Carolina Conservation Network, (419) 348-2340
• Sandra Diaz, North Carolina Campaign Coordinator, Appalachian Voices, 828-262-1500
Regional and national contacts:
• Lisa Evans, Senior Administrative Counsel Earthjustice,
• Rhiannon Fionn-Bowman, Independent Journalist, Coal Ash Chronicles,
• Lisa Graves-Marcucci, Grassroots Organizer, Environmental Integrity Project,
• Ulla Reeves, High Risk Energy Program Director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy,
• Dr. Avner Vengosh, PhD, Duke University,,
• Dr. Shea Tuberty, PhD, Appalachian State University,
• Donna Lisenby, Global Coal Campaign Coordinator, Waterkeeper Alliance,
• Frank Holleman, Senior Attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center,
• Dr. Yolanda Whyte, MD, Dr. Yolanda Whyte Pediatrics,

• Nelson Brooke, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Inc.,
• Cindy Lowry, Executive Director, Alabama Rivers Alliance,

• Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, Executive Director, GreenLaw,
• Brian Adams, Attorney, Gautreax & Adams,
• Seth Gunning, Georgia Organizing Representative, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign,
• State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver, Georgia General Assembly,

North Carolina:
• Sandra Diaz, NC Campaign Coordinator, Appalachian Voices,
• Rick Gaskins, Executive Director, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation,
• State Representative Pricey Harrison, NC General Assembly,
• Hartwell Carson, French Broad Riverkeeper, Western North Carolina Alliance,
• Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear Riverkeeper,

South Carolina:
• Christine Ellis, Waccamaw Riverkeeper, Winyah Rivers Foundation,