Environmental groups lashed out Friday against the Environmental Protection Agency’s industry-friendly proposal to roll back safeguards for the disposal of coal ash—a toxic by-product from coal plants that sits in pits at over 1,000 sites across the nation.
The agency, headed by “no friend of air and water safeguards” Scott Pruitt, announced the rule change Thursday.
“The Trump administration is putting drinking water and the health of communities across the country at risk so their friends in the power plant industry can save a few bucks,” said Jennifer Peters, Clean Water Action’s water program director, in a press statement Friday. “The coal ash rule is a very modest protection. Gutting it now will let coal plants avoid any responsibility for their waste, leave taxpayers on the hook for clean up, and lead to more contaminated water.”
Thanks to industry pressure, the 2015 coal ash rule, which included increased inspections, monitoring, and stricter structural integrity standards for disposal sites, fell “woefully short of truly protecting the public from the dangers of coal ash,” according to Larissa Liebmann, staff attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance. “Now, the Trump Administration is trying to pare back what already was the bare minimum.”
Coal ash contains highly toxic contaminants like mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, and demands for stricter regulations of it followed large spills near Kingston, Tenn. and Eden, N.C.—spills the EPA acknowledged “caused widespread environmental and economic damage to nearby waterways and properties.”
Physicians for Social Responsibility says coal ash is “the second-largest industrial waste stream in the country,” and, further laying out its threats, explains that
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