Environmental Groups Say They Support Recycling. But Do They Really?

            In a draft letter to President Barack Obama, environmental activist groups say they support the recycling of coal ash. That’s good news. It would be even better news if they actually showed that support somewhere other than in a misleading letter to the White House.

            Last week, 121 members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to President Obama urging him to prevent the EPA from designating coal ash as “hazardous” when it is disposed.  You can read the complete letter here:

            In response to that letter, anti-coal proponents of a “hazardous” designation are now circulating their own draft letter to numerous local, state and national environmental activist groups seeking their signatures.  In the draft letter, they make this claim:

“One of the issues industry is using to slow down the rulemaking process is the argument that the regulation of coal combustion waste will place a stigma on the recycling of fly ash.  We believe this argument is overstated.  Our groups support the beneficial use of fly ash. We do not expect the reuse of fly ash to decrease if the disposal of ash is regulated as hazardous waste.  On the contrary, companies will be able to avoid the hazardous waste requirements by using coal ash beneficially.  Therefore, we think coal ash regulation will promote more beneficial use.”

            First of all, the claim that calling coal ash “hazardous” will not affect the ability to continue recycling it is contradicted by numerous state agencies, professional societies and actual users of the material.  Don’t take our word for it.  Look at the dozens of letters on file here:  In fact, the only people who have said the hazardous stigma won’t hurt recycling are anti-coal environmental groups and a few companies that make plastic liners for hazardous waste landfills.

            Secondly, the environmental groups imply that industry is talking about recycling as a way to slow down or avoid regulation of disposal.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The fact is, disposal regulations can be improved without designating coal ash as “hazardous.” A wide array of coal ash producers and recyclers support increasing the regulation of coal ash disposal as long as the resource does not get stigmatized through the addition of an unwarranted and unnecessary “hazardous” label.

            Finally, if these environmental groups really “support the beneficial use of fly ash,” why is it impossible to find any evidence of that support?  Survey the web sites of some of the major environmental activists that have already signed on to this draft letter, such as Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project, Plains Justice, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Citizen, League of Conservation Voters, and more.  None of them ever admit that the safe recycling of coal ash creates significant environmental benefits for the United States.

            Environmental groups that claim in private to support coal ash recycling but never say it in public are utterly disingenuous. If they really want to do what’s best for the environment, they will immediately begin promoting the safe recycling of coal ash as the preferred alternative to disposal.

Posted by: on: Apr 07, 2010 @ 10:09