The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is holding a public hearing on a proposal to approve the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality’s (ODEQ) rules on coal ash pollution that would replace federal requirements. The proposed rules were sought by industry to protect them from third-party lawsuits, and would significantly limit public information about and participation in coal ash disposal site permitting and compliance.
Coal ash — the waste that is left over at coal-burning power plants — contains toxic substances known to cause cancer and other human health impacts, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, selenium, thallium and hexavalent chromium. When companies irresponsibly store and dispose of coal ash, these hazardous chemicals can enter the air, groundwater, surface water, and soil. Two sites located on the banks of major rivers — GRDA’s Grand River Energy Center on the Grand River and AEP/PSO’s Northeastern Power Station on the Verdigris — have already contaminated the groundwater, yet it is unclear how this pollution will be addressed under these rules.
In 2016, ODEQ, at the behest of industry, created a set of rules on coal ash ponds and landfills. These rules use a permitting scheme that limit the ability of the public to have a say in whether coal ash sites meet the standards, and, in some cases, prevent the public from challenging flawed permits. More specifically, the public has no opportunity to comment on permits for existing coal ash landfills and little chance to comment on permits for existing coal ash ponds. For existing coal ash sites, the public is not allowed to challenge permits issued by ODEQ — even if they have inadequate protections. These permits would also be “for life,” which means that the public likely will have very limited chances to weigh in on industry requirements to monitor groundwater, remedy contamination, or close ash sites.
The meeting is on Tuesday, Feb. 13, beginning at 9 a.m. (CST) at the ODEQ building located at 707 N. Robinson Ave., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Sign up now to tell EPA to reject these highly flawed rules! More information and pre-registration forms are here. The deadline to pre-register is Monday, Feb. 12 at 5 p.m. CST — please pre-register as soon as possible!