How Many Lawyers Does It Take to Ruin a Recycling Industry?

            Anti-coal environmental activists are eager to label coal ash as “hazardous,” but there is another group that would be happy to see that take place: personal injury lawyers.

            Personal injury lawyer web sites with names like “” are already following coal ash in the wake of the December 2008 Kingston impoundment failure.  Anyone who has ever watched late night television can figure out what their interest is.  Consider this excerpt from a web site entitled “”:

            “The chemicals found in coal ash can cause serious health problems, and in some instances of high exposure, death. See your doctor if you suspect that your drinking water may be contaminated with chemicals from a nearby coal ash depository. In addition, it may be important to contact an attorney who can help you protect your legal rights. Please keep in mind that there may be time limits within which you must commence suit.”

            So what happens if environmental groups get their way and convince the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to overturn two previous regulatory determinations and designate coal ash as “hazardous waste” when disposed?  Ash that goes into a landfill would be “hazardous,” but ash that gets used in the construction of homes, schools, roads and more would not.

            Think about it.  If coal ash spills out of a truck on the way to a concrete production plant, does it require a hazardous waste clean-up?  Can workers file claims for being exposed to a hazardous waste? Can homeowners? Will trucks carrying coal ash require hazardous waste placards?  The lawyers can have a field day.

            Environmental activists counter that we use hazardous materials every day – like gasoline.  But if you drive a car, you can’t choose whether or not to use gasoline.  If you build things, you can choose whether or not to use recycled materials containing coal ash and even if lawsuits are frivolous, you will probably choose to avoid the time and expense of defending them.

            Coal ash does not qualify as a hazardous waste based on its toxic characteristics.  Coal ash disposal standards can be improved without taking the unwarranted and damaging step of declaring the material to be something that it is not.

Posted by: on: Mar 09, 2010 @ 11:15