Sierra Club and Allies Take Action to Protect Communities and Environment from Toxic Coal Ash
April 5, 2012
On April 5, public health and environmental groups, including Sierra Club, filed a lawsuit urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to complete its rulemaking process and finalize public health safeguards against toxic coal ash. Although EPA has not updated its waste disposal and control standards for coal ash in over thirty years, it continues to delay these needed federal protections despite more evidence of leaking waste ponds, poisoned groundwater supplies and threats to public health. The groups’ lawsuit comes as EPA data show that an additional 29 power plants in 16 states have contaminated groundwater near coal ash dump sites.
Earthjustice is suing the agency under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) on behalf of Appalachian Voices (NC), Environmental Integrity Project, Chesapeake Climate Action Network (MD), French Broad Riverkeeper (NC), Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KY), Moapa Band of Paiutes (NV), Montana Environmental Information Center (MT), Physicians for Social Responsibility, Prairie Rivers Network (IL), Sierra Club and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (TN). RCRA requires EPA to ensure that safeguards are regularly updated to address threats posed by wastes, but the EPA has never revised the safeguards to ensure that they address coal ash. Coal ash is the byproduct of coal-fired power plants, and includes a toxic mix of arsenic, lead, hexavalent chromium, mercury, selenium, cadmium and other dangerous pollutants.
The lawsuit would force EPA to set deadlines for review and revision of relevant solid and hazardous waste safeguards to address coal ash, as well as the much needed, and long overdue changes to the test that determines whether a waste is hazardous under RCRA.
December 9, 2009
On December 1, 2009, Sierra Club, Earthjustice and Environmental Integrity Project took action to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to release important information on more than 70 potentially hazardous coal ash pond sites across the United States. Sierra Club and its allies initially requested information on the coal ash ponds in June through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. In response, the EPA released some data that shows there are almost twice as many coal ash ponds as previously identified, and that the largest of these dumps tended to be the oldest, offering the least amount of protection. Yet several companies, like Duke Energy, Alabama Power, Georgia Power and First Energy, have asked the EPA to withhold information relating to their own facilities, claiming it is so-called "confidential business information." The environmental groups filed their complaint in federal district court under FOIA to obtain the withheld information because access to it is vital to the health and safety of those living near the potentially hazardous sites.
Coal ash ponds contain harmful levels of arsenic, lead, mercury and other toxins, and pose a serious risk to nearby communities, wildlife and waterways. In December 2008, coal ash disposal gained national attention when one of Tennessee Valley Authority’s massive coal ash ponds erupted and spilled over 1 billion gallons of toxic sludge, devastating neighboring communities and releasing toxic metals into nearby waterways. EPA is now considering whether to classify coal ash as a hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, a move that would lead to tighter standards on waste disposal.
Details and Documents:
Community Groups File Lawsuit for Federal Coal Ash Protections
April 5, 2012, Groups' Press Release
Groups' Complaint for Declaratory & Injunctive Relief
April 5, 2012, In the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
List of 29 New Coal-Fired Plants with Contaminated Groundwater
April 4, 2012
Communities Have Right to Know About Toxic Coal Ash Impoundments
December 2, 2009, Sierra Club Press Release
Sierra Club et al. Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief
December 1, 2009, In the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
Residents, activists prod EPA for coal ash rules
April 18, 2012 by Dylan Lovan, Associated Press
Green groups sue EPA over coal ash rules
April 5, 2012, Reuters
See other "Stop Polluters" cases.