Rule will not adequately protect water or communities; Fails to follow science and properly designate coal ash as hazardous waste
New York, NY — December 19, 2014 — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today has issued its first-ever national rule governing the disposal of toxic coal ash from coal-fired power plants. For years, Waterkeeper Alliance has pressed the EPA to adopt strong standards for coal ash, which is America’s largest unregulated waste stream. Even though coal ash contains dangerous amounts of toxic chemicals like arsenic, chromium, and lead, it has been subject to less regulation than household garbage in most states.
Over a decade in the making, EPA’s new rule leaves critical gaps in the protection of human health and the environment. The rule fails to designate coal ash as a hazardous waste, allowing its producers to continue dumping it in huge, unlined pits that leak. The rule also continues to leave leave primary oversight up to state regulators, who, for decades, have failed to prevent catastrophic spills; failed to protect drinking water sources from contamination; allowed rivers and lakes to be poisoned; and obstructed affected citizens’ efforts to protect themselves and their communities. Following is a statement from Marc Yaggi, Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance:
“EPA’s historic failure to regulate coal ash has resulted in catastrophes that have buried homes in poisonous slurry and permanently harmed rivers and stream. How could EPA conclude that coal ash, which is loaded with carcinogens including arsenic, cadmium, and chromium, is not a hazardous waste? These toxins are contaminating the land and water around hundreds of coal ash dumps across the country. Today’s rule falls far short of what is needed to protect communities and ensure clean water for all Americans.
“EPA failed to follow the science and cravenly abandoned its duty to protect American families by capitulating to intense pressure from a powerful, polluting industry. This is yet another example of polluters profiting over people at the hands of the very agency who is supposed to regulate them.
“For the past three years, Waterkeeper Alliance has investigated dozens of coal ash dumps all over the United States. We’ve found toxic pollution leaking and spilling out of nearly every ash dump we’ve looked at. EPA’s new rule will allow hazardous pollution to leak into the environment for decades to come.”