EPA Considering Proposal to Regulate Coal Ash

Earlier this year we wrote that following December 2008’s massive and environmentally catastrophic<"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/Tennessee_Fly_Ash_Spill"> Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) fly ash spill, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) detailed options and costs for the utility to clean up the mess left in the spill’s wake. Now, Bloomberg Business Week is writing that a proposal for federal mandates for the disposal of residue from coal burning power plants will be considered at a public hearing.

According to a prior Associated Press (AP) report, the EPA has not yet determined the issue of coal ash regulation as a hazardous material. Today’s hearing, which is scheduled to take place in Denver, Colorado, is the second of seven the EPA is conducting nationwide on the issue of coal ash disposal, wrote Bloomberg News.

The TVA spill let loose an unimaginable 5.4 million cubic yards of toxic coal sludge into the Emory and Clinch rivers and the 300 acres surrounding the plant. Of note, the spill dumped more heavy metals into the Emory River than all of the power plants in 2007 combined, said the Environmental Integrity Project previously.

Numerous studies conclude that coal dumps leach dangerous toxins into the environment that can cause cancer, birth defects, and other serious health outcomes in water and wildlife, including frightening guarantees of developing cancer from drinking contaminated water. Also, these toxins have been found to cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and other organs from toxic metal exposure, such as cadmium, cobalt, lead, and other pollutants far above levels considered safe.

Last year we wrote that an EPA report stated that some “potentially toxic pollutants,” such as mercury and arsenic, which are found in coal ash, could present serious problems. We also recently wrote about how information pointing to “significantly higher cancer risks” for those living near coal-fired power plant ash dumps was allegedly covered up by the recent Bush Administration, according to a report by EnvironmentalIntegrity.org. The report also stated that the pollutants can converge in considerable quantities, which are released into waterways or groundwater, citing the Tennessean.

Bloomberg News pointed out that although sites are regulated in 45 states, regulations are not even and the EPA is worried about the harm that leaching could cause to groundwater. The EPA has proposed a mandate for liners and for monitoring of groundwater at new coal ash landfills so that groundwater and human health are protected, said Bloomberg News.

The EPA is also hoping to make a determination for implementing the rules and is looking to choose between two options, said Bloomberg News. One is to regulate coal ash as hazardous waste, allowing for direct federal oversight; however, this option could take years in implement as states take on the changes. The other option could be implemented quickly; however, it requires state and citizen lawsuits to enable enforcement, explained Bloomberg News. Thirty-five US senators signed a letter in July in support of this option and to regulate under nonhazardous waste rules. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association agrees with this option, as well.

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