Providing More Perspective at Pittsburgh Coal Ash Public Hearing

            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 Pittsburgh, we offered testimony to put coal ash disposal issues in perspective with a material everyone is familiar with – household waste.

            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 six hearings in Washington, DC, Denver, Dallas, Charlotte, Chicago and Pittsburgh, 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 Pittsburgh hearing testimony. To download a copy of the brochure, click here:

            Additional EPA hearings will be held in 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 Pittsburgh:

“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.

“One of the justifications frequently cited for enacting new rules for coal ash disposal is that the material is less regulated than household waste. The implication of this statement is that coal ash is somehow more dangerous than household waste.

“In fact, household solid waste commonly contains all of the metals that are frequently cited as concerns in coal ash. Additionally, household waste contains a wide variety of toxic, corrosive and poisonous materials that are not present in coal ash. Household waste is flammable and produces explosive gases such as methane. Coal ash does not. Household waste is biologically active. Coal ash is not. Household waste attracts birds and rodents that can transport pathogens off site. Coal ash does not.

“Despite its much greater hazard potential, household waste is successfully managed through RCRA Subtitle D, under which the federal EPA establishes national disposal standards that are administered by the states. This success story shows that EPA can improve coal ash disposal regulations in the United States without going to the extreme of declaring coal ash a hazardous waste.

“It is worth noting that the proposed landfill engineering standards are essentially the same in both of EPA's proposed regulatory approaches. The Subtitle D nonhazardous and Subtitle C hazardous approaches both call for single liner systems, groundwater monitoring and the effective elimination of wet impoundments. It's also worth noting that these standards are consistent with Subtitle D landfill engineering.

“EPA 's Subtitle D nonhazardous approach is fully protective of human health and the environment, can be implemented years sooner than the Subtitle C approach, and avoids the creation of a hazardous waste stigma that will devastate coal ash recycling.

“Just as many parts of America's household waste stream can be safely recycled, coal ash can be put to good use rather than disposed in landfills and impoundments. Using coal ash in a variety of building materials and construction and agricultural applications offers many benefits -- including reduced landfill construction, conservation of natural resources, and reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

“People will not want to keep using coal ash, however, if it is branded as hazardous waste when destined for a landfill. The coal ash that goes into concrete, for instance, is chemically and mechanically identical to coal ash that gets disposed. If EPA decides to regulate coal ash disposal as a hazardous waste, producers and consumers of products containing coal ash will be confronted with using a material deemed hazardous in another setting. Ask many people who will testify at this hearing today whether they want hazardous waste in their home or school and you will see that stigma is a real factor that will devastate recycling efforts.

“Citizens for Recycling First supports enactment of tougher coal ash disposal regulations that will protect human health and the environment. A Subtitle D approach can accomplish this goal without unnecessarily destroying coal ash recycling. We urge you to remember that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act intended to put conservation and recovery first. A Subtitle C designation will only harm conservation and recovery by leading to the disposal of tens of millions of tons of material every year that could otherwise be safely put to good use.”

Posted by: on: Sep 22, 2010 @ 10:25