National, Local Groups Announce Plans to Sue EPA Over Delayed Coal Ash Regulations

by Erica Peterson on January 18, 2012

Local and national environmental groups say they plan to sue the federal government over delays in coal ash regulation. The groups announced their plans today.

Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal for electricity. It’s disposed of in wet ponds and dry landfills all over the country. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule to regulate the disposal of coal ash, which is currently subject only to state regulations. But the rule still hasn’t been finalized.

The notice of intent to sue was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of local groups, including Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. Mary Love of KFTC says it’s important that the rules be finalized. In the Louisville area, three power plants store coal ash in impoundments near the Ohio River.

“Since so many of our landfills and coal ash sludge ponds are right on the river—the ones that are close to us are right on the Ohio—we are leaching heavy metals into our water systems,” Love said. “And typically, municipal water systems test for bacteria, but they don’t test for heavy metals.”

There are also air pollution issues, and residents living near the Cane Run Power Station have complained of airborne coal ash contaminating their homes.

Lisa Evans is an attorney with Earthjustice. Her organization has been lobbying for the EPA to adopt the stricter version of the rule—known as Subtitle C, it would regulate ash as a hazardous waste. But Evans says even the alternative would be better than nothing.

“What we have right now throughout the United States is a patchwork of inadequate regulations with no federal requirements for consistent minimum standards,” she said. “While we would prefer that the agency regulate under Subtitle C, the rule under Subtitle D would be an improvement on what we have now. But clearly the status quo leaves communities unprotected.”

The notice of intent to sue gives the EPA 60 days to address the concerns—in this case, by finalizing the regulations. If the EPA doesn’t, the groups will file the lawsuit in federal district court.

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