Fighting the Latest Media Mischaracterization -- “More Stringent”

            Citizens for Recycling First has begun an assertive effort to contact news reporters who inaccurately describe the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal for labeling coal ash “hazardous waste” as a “more stringent” form of regulation.

            Some reporters have recently begun to adopt the description that was first coined by anti-coal environmental groups.  However, EPA’s proposal for regulating coal ash as a “hazardous” waste is not “more stringent” than its alternative proposal for regulating coal ash as a “non-hazardous” waste.  Under both scenarios, wet impoundments would be phased out and engineering requirements for dry landfills would be the same.

The primary difference between the two proposals is who gets to enforce the new rules.  Under the “hazardous” proposal, enforcement would be federal and under “non-hazardous” enforcement would fall to the states.  The fact that federal EPA is enforcing essentially the same standards does not make those standards more “stringent.”

Put another way, you don’t get a better landfill with the “hazardous waste” designation.  What you do get is a crippling stigma that is already starting to destroy one of the most beneficial recycling efforts in America.  Citizens for Recycling First believes the best solution for coal ash disposal problems is to quit throwing coal ash away.  Millions of tons of coal ash are safely recycled every year into construction materials like concrete and wallboard.

When reporters use the “more stringent” description in news articles across the country, Citizens for Recycling First contacts them through emails, comment posts on web sites, or other means to explain the inaccuracy of the statement.

Citizens for Recycling First also works diligently to challenge inaccurate and misleading media statements concerning “toxic coal ash” – another label that is damaging beneficial recycling efforts.  When this phrase appears, Citizens for Recycling First contacts reporters to explain that coal ash is not "toxic." Coal ash contains trace amounts of metals, just like most materials you encounter in everyday life. (For example: compact fluorescent light bulbs, dental fillings, daily multivitamin pills, etc.) The levels of metals in coal ash are similar to or lower than the metals present in the materials coal ash replaces when it is recycled. Those metals are only "toxic" if they have a way to get out of the ash and into you in sufficient quantities to cause harm.

Most reporters appreciate the clarifications and in many cases become more careful in their descriptions of coal ash and proposals for regulating its disposal.

Posted by: on: Apr 11, 2011 @ 11:40