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EPA Officials Sit on Hands as Radical Attacks on Coal Ash Recycling Intensify

            A Washington DC activist group is demanding that the federal government ban the use of coal ash in federal construction projects – despite the fact that official federal policy since 1983 has been to encourage the practice.

            Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility – a group that also sponsors campaigns to protest road kill and ships running into whales – has petitioned the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality to completely reverse long-standing policies that encourage recycling. "If the federal government is truly going to reduce its carbon footprint, banning coal ash is an unavoidable step," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.

            PEER is the same group that in July petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to rescind its calculations of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions that are attributed to using coal ash to replace cement in concrete. PEER does not appear to be challenging the fact that fly ash use offsets greenhouse gas emissions from cement production.  However, they appear to be claiming that EPA should assign to coal fly ash all of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity production.

            EPA – under both Democrat and Republican administrations – has long supported the recycling of coal ash.  In 1983, EPA published its first federal procurement guideline requiring agencies using federal funds to implement a preference program favoring the purchase of cement and concrete containing coal fly ash. In the years that followed, EPA published numerous guidance documents on the use and environmental benefits of coal ash recycling. In 2003, the agency created the Coal Combustion Products Partnership (C2P2) program to further promote the safe and environmentally beneficial recycling of coal ash.

            PEER has also been active in criticizing the C2P2 program, referring to it in a recent newsletter article as “An Unholy Alliance… pushing toxic coal ash in carpet backing, wallboard, kitchen counters and even toothpaste and cosmetics.”  Rather than defend nearly three decades of EPA actions to encourage safe coal ash recycling, the current Environmental Protection Agency responded to the PEER attacks by abruptly and unilaterally suspending the C2P2 program and deleting its information from the EPA web site.  (For more information, see here: http://www.recyclingfirst.org/blog/?post=58)

            Although EPA continues to profess that it supports legitimate coal ash recycling, it is providing essentially no information to the public on that topic – leaving the field clear for outrageous claims by PEER and like-minded anti-coal activists.

The coal ash greenhouse gas reduction figures long accepted by EPA and other regulatory agencies worldwide recognize that the greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fueled power plants are associated with the production of electricity and would exist whether the fly ash is beneficially used or not.  PEER wants fly ash to count the emissions from burning the coal as part of its greenhouse gas footprint, even though no one would ever burn coal just to make ash.

PEER’s position is ridiculous and short-sighted – apparently willing to sacrifice millions of tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions reductions just to take a slap at coal. But to EPA leaders who claim with a straight face that a hazardous waste designation for coal ash will actually increase its recycling rate, apparently anything could make sense.


Posted by: on: Aug 03, 2010 @ 06:47