Rep. Raskin Leads 55 Members in Opposing EPA's Rollback of Safety Rule Mandating the Closure of Risky Coal Ash Storage Ponds

September 3, 2020
Press Release
Communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately threatened by toxic coal ash exposure

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) today led 55 House Members in urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw its dangerous proposal to weaken coal ash safety standards across America by gutting a 2015 rule mandating the closure of unprotected coal ash storage ponds. Under the existing 2015 rule, coal ash storage ponds are required to close if they are leaking dangerous chemicals, structurally impaired, or located in hazardous geological areas. The EPA’s proposed revisions to the rule would permit operators to resume dumping millions of tons of toxic waste in unprotected coal ash storage ponds, endangering the health of communities downstream and ensuring the continued pollution of our nation’s waterways.

Communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately threatened by toxic coal ash, which contains lethal toxic contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic and can lead to cancer, low birth weight and premature death. Swift closure of coal ash storage ponds is necessary to prevent these contaminants from poisoning groundwater and creating overflow toxic spills, like the ones that devastated the communities of Kingston, TN in 2008 and Eden, NC in 2014.
 
On Monday, the EPA rolled back another 2015 coal ash safety regulation that limited toxic wastewater pollution from coal plants, the largest source of toxic water pollution in America. The first-ever comprehensive national study of coal ash pollution found that 91% of U.S.-powered coal plants are contaminating groundwater with dangerous levels of toxic pollutants.

The Members wrote: “Despite the known danger coal ash contamination poses to our health, the EPA is inexplicably moving to gut the minimal protections established in 2015. The Part B Proposal is the agency’s sixth attempt to roll back the 2015 rule. If finalized, the rule would allow coal users to resume dumping millions of tons of toxic ash into unprotected, leaking and structurally flawed ponds - a gift to polluters that would irreparably damage the environment and jeopardize the health of our people.”

The Members continued: “The Part B Proposal contains two very dangerous provisions: First, the proposal permits certain toxic ash ponds to operate indefinitely as long as operators perform highly technical and deeply flawed “demonstrations” of their own safety. Few regulators will have the necessary expertise to adequately evaluate these highly technical demonstrations. Moreover, the proposal excludes the public from meaningfully participating in the review process. Second, the proposal would allow coal users to continue dumping toxic ash into hundreds of high-risk ponds that were scheduled to close in compliance with the 2015 rule. Many of these high-risk ponds are already leaking dangerous chemicals, structurally impaired, and located in hazardous geological areas. Adding millions of tons of toxic ash to these unstable sites would endanger thousands of American lives and disproportionately harm low income areas and communities of color.”

The letter is supported by Earthjustice and the Sierra Club. A copy of the letter is available here.

In addition to Rep. Raskin, the letter is also signed by the following Members: Rashida Tlaib, Jim Cooper, Jerrold Nadler, Nydia M. Velázquez, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alan Lowenthal, Stephen F. Lynch, Andy Levin, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Grace F. Napolitano, Steve Cohen, Barbara Lee, Mark Takano, David Trone, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Debbie Dingell, Jared Huffman, James P. McGovern, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Mike Quigley, Sheila Jackson Lee, Julia Brownley, Ro Khanna, Deb Haaland, Gerald E. Connolly, Betty McCollum, Yvette D. Clarke, Peter A. DeFazio, Grace Meng, Eliot L. Engel, Earl Blumenauer, Maxine Waters, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Alcee L. Hastings, Diana DeGette, Abigail D. Spanberger, Sean Casten, Suzanne Bonamici, Peter Welch, Bill Foster, Darren Soto, Chellie Pingree, Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, Anthony G. Brown, Ann McLane Kuster, John P. Sarbanes, Brad Sherman, Kathy Castor, Juan Vargas, A. Donald McEachin, John Yarmuth, Thomas R. Suozzi, Linda T. Sánchez, Judy Chu, and Harley Rouda.

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