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Enviros Argue Process to Move Faulty Coal Ash Policy


Saturday marked 120 days since the EPA submitted its draft coal ash disposal regulation to the White House for review – prompting special interests to begin crying for its public release regardless of the consequences. In other words, “Damn the babies, throw out the bathwater!”

In this article on The Huffington Post, the president of the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) urges EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to “to take the courageous step of publishing the proposed rule” even if the White House’s Office of Management and Budget is not finished reviewing it. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rena-steinzor/oiras-time-is-up-on-coal_b_460678.html?view=screen  The reason?  OMB’s “deadline” has passed.

To justify this outrageous position, the writer recounts a familiar litany of environmental activist misleading statements.  For instance:

CPR: “Coal ash contains arsenic, beryllium, chromium, lead, and mercury, metals that are extremely toxic in small amounts.” In fact, so do dozens of other materials in your own home right now. The metals are only a concern if they get out of the ash and into you.  Even after the Kingston coal ash spill, health experts concluded that water in the area is safe and “No harm to the community’s health is expected from touching the coal ash.” (See Ash Blog for February 12.)

CPR: “Last week, EPA issued a battery of engineers' reports on dozens of similar facilities, making clear that Kingston could happen again.”  In fact, the engineers’ reports showed that of the 83 facilities inspected by EPA, exactly NONE of them “pose immediate safety threats.” (See Ash Blog for February 10.)

CPR: “…all of this sturm und drang is happening in secret.” In fact, dozens of local, state and federal agencies and elected officials; coal ash users; labor unions; and others have been very public in voicing their concerns about EPA’s apparent direction.  And records of every single presentation to the Office of Management and Budget can be found here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira_2050_meetings/. So how is this “secrecy?”

If the Center for Progressive Reform were to take the time to actually read all of those presentations, they would see that the concerns being raised are substantive and that coal ash recycling efforts are already being damaged by this discussion. 

No one is suggesting that coal ash disposal regulations should not be improved. But the method EPA apparently wants to use to get jurisdiction over coal ash disposal – unjustifiably labeling it as “hazardous” – threatens to undo significant environmental and social benefits from recycling the material rather than throwing it away.

Coal ash disposal regulations can be improved without stigmatizing an important resource. Focusing on self-imposed “deadlines” should not be the point. (After all, EPA is under no legal obligation to develop new rules at all. Over the past 22 years, the agency has already issued two Reports to Congress and two formal Regulatory Determinations that hazardous waste regulation of coal ash is not warranted.) Perhaps the Center for Progressive Reform would join us in calling for a well-crafted regulatory proposal that best protects the environment rather than a faulty one that meets an arbitrary deadline.


Posted by: on: Feb 15, 2010 @ 05:11