The Clean Water Blog

Turning Back the Clock on Toxic Protections

By Jennifer Peters, Water Programs Director - Follow Jennifer on Twitter (@EarthAvenger)

Later today Congress will vote on yet another giveaway to big utilities and coal companies. H.R. 1734, the misleadingly named Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation of 2015 would turn back the clock on critical protections to keep communities safe from harmful coal ash pollution. Coal ash contains arsenic, lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium and numerous other toxic chemicals. This dangerous bill is an insult to the many communities around the country that have been devastated by a coal ash spill or have had their drinking water contaminated. This bill is so horrible that the White House has already issued a veto threat.

If polluters are successful in gutting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new coal ash rule, there will be more spills and contamination. The standard practice, used by utilities for decades, is to discard this toxic waste by dumping it in very large, often unlined and unmonitored pits placed near rivers, streams or other water resources. Until very recently there were no federal regulations to ensure utilities were disposing of coal ash safely. EPA’s rule is not as strong as environmental groups wanted, but it does offer new tools to help communities better protect themselves from harmful pollution.

Some of the new protections that H.R. 1734 would gut include:

  • Eliminating the rule’s ban on storing or dumping coal ash in drinking water sources;
  • Weakening the rule’s mandate to close inactive (contaminated and abandoned) ponds by extending the deadline for closure, allowing these legacy ponds to operate without safeguards for at least 6 years;
  • Weakening the rule’s guarantee of public access to information and public participation;
  • Removing the rule’s national standard for drinking water protection and cleanup of coal ash-contaminated sites;
  • Removing the rule’s national minimum standard for protection of health and the environment and allow state programs to eliminate critical safety requirements;
  • Prohibiting effective federal oversight of state programs; and
  • Prohibiting EPA enforcement of state program requirements unless invited by a state.

Please take a minute to let your Member of Congress know that you oppose this dangerous bill by taking action here: http://cleanwater.org/action/tell-congress-protect-communities-toxic-coal-ash