A coalition of environmental groups is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in hopes of speeding up new safeguards for power plants’ coal ash dumps, the Columbus Dispatch
reported. In its lawsuit, the coalition claims EPA has failed, for several decades, to enact regulations to declare coal ash as a hazardous waste or to update testing methods.
If the EPA declares coal ash a hazardous waste, it would lead to large clean-up costs for electric companies that store the byproduct in ponds and landfills near their power plants.
Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal to generate electricity, went largely unregulated for years. However, environmentalists have been calling for further regulations since 2008, when the coal ash impoundment at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant, flooded 300 acres of a riverfront community.
The disaster resulted in a multi-year cleanup costing more than $1.2 billion and displaced dozens of families. Further, in late October 2011, another spill occurred in Oak Creek, Wis., where an unregulated coal-ash site collapsed into Lake Michigan.
“Our nation’s coal-fired power plants burn over one billion tons of coal every year, producing 140 million tons of coal ash, in the form of fly ash, bottom ash, scrubber sludge, and boiler slag,” the coalition’s lawsuit says. “Because burning concentrates coal’s impurities, coal ash contains substantial quantities of carcinogens, neurotoxins, and poisons — including arsenic, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, and thallium.”
The coalition includes the groups Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Environmental Integrity Project, French Broad Riverkeeper, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Moapa Band of Pauites, Montana Environmental Information Center, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Prairie Rivers Network, Sierra Club, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
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