Clearing Up Misconceptions at Coal Ash Public Hearings

             Citizens for Recycling First continues to attend every EPA coal ash public hearing to support actions that encourage recycling as a safe, environmentally preferable alternative to disposal. At the most recent hearing in Chicago, we offered testimony to clear up several common misconceptions and had a chance to talk with dozens of environmental activists who had no idea that coal ash can be safely recycled with significant environmental benefits.

            The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scheduled eight day-long public hearings around the country to gather comments regarding its proposals for regulating coal ash disposal.  At the first five hearings in Washington, DC, Denver, Dallas, Charlotte and Chicago, Citizens for Recycling First offered testimony and distributed campaign buttons and brochures to hearing attendees.

            A picture of our campaign button can be seen below, along with the text from our Chicago hearing testimony. To download a copy of the brochure, click here:

            Additional EPA hearings will be held in Pittsburgh, Louisville and Knoxville.  If you would like to volunteer to help Citizens for Recycling First at one or more of the hearings, please send a message to

            Here is what we had to say in Chicago:

“My name is John Ward and I am Chairman of Citizens for Recycling First – an organization of more than 1,500 individuals who believe that the best solution for coal ash disposal problems is to quit throwing coal ash away.

“Today I would like to make four key points that address common misconceptions that have been frequently stated at these public hearings.

“Number One: Coal ash does not qualify as a hazardous waste based on its toxicity. This is not an opinion. It is a fact that standardized tests show that the levels of metals in coal ash are below the amounts established for listing it as a hazardous waste. In recycling settings, the toxicity of coal ash is similar to the toxicity of the materials it commonly replaces.

“Number Two: EPA's proposed Subtitle D and Subtitle C regulatory approaches are both protective of human health and the environment. The landfill constructions standards proposed are essentially the same in both proposals. EPA's Subtitle C proposal is not "stronger." The key difference between the proposals boils down to who gets to enforce the new regulations that EPA establishes – new regulations that are far from “business as usual” in either option.

“Number Three: Stigma is real. Labeling coal ash as hazardous waste when it is disposed creates enormous barriers to recycling. Producers, marketers and users of coal ash have been unanimous in expressing this fact during the public hearings. The only people claiming stigma is not real are people with no direct involvement in the recycling effort.

“Number Four: Stigma is already taking a toll on recycling as a result of this debate. Specifiers and users of coal ash are already beginning to remove the material from projects because of regulatory uncertainty and fear of future liabilities. Manufacturers of products that compete with coal ash are actively using this forum to make false claims about dangers of using coal ash. And we have seen numerous witnesses at these very hearings express fear regarding long established beneficial uses of coal ash – proving the point that the drumbeat of the terms "toxic" and "hazardous" dramatically affects consumer behavior.

“The people who work every day to recycle coal ash are extremely disheartened by this debate. Many of them have devoted entire careers to do something good for our environment. They now feel betrayed by the Environmental Protection Agency and environmental groups that appear resolved to ignore and sacrifice the benefits of recycling in their single minded push for federal enforcement authority.

“New coal ash disposal regulations under Subtitle D will make meaningful improvements to disposal practices and do it faster than Subtitle C can.  Subtitle D will protect human health and the environment, and will avoid the creation of an unnecessary and harmful hazardous waste stigma that will wreck efforts to safely and responsibly recycle millions of tons of material that would otherwise find its way to landfills. Subtitle D is the right choice for our environment.”

Posted by: on: Sep 16, 2010 @ 11:11