The Skywriter

Preventing the next TN coal sludge disaster (CORRECTED)


Preventing the next TN coal sludge disaster (CORRECTED)


Remember that horrendous coal ash disaster in Tennessee? Today, Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Chairman of the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee is taking action by holding a hearing on the Coal Ash Reclamation and Environmental Safety Act of 2009 (H.R. 493).* Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) introduced the bill last month, after a coal ash dam in Kingston, Tennessee ruptured, releasing a 100-billion-gallon tidal wave of toxic coal sludge into the neighboring community; the spill was 100 times greater than Exxon-Valdez.

Although current federal standards regulate the management of coal slurry, another toxic byproduct of burning coal, no regulations exist for the disposal of toxic coal ash. Some state requirements govern the construction of impoundments, landfills, and mines where toxic coal ash is deposited, but these requirements are far from comprehensive, and sometimes there are no standards at all. Toxic ash is just one of the many reasons we are calling for a moratorium on new coal plants.

In order to prevent future coal ash disasters, Rahall's bill would establish federal standards for the design, engineering, and performance of coal ash disposal sites. From his press release:

For those states that do not already have careful standards for coal ash disposal, my legislation will require immediate attention to the shocking gaps in coal ash management. The American public and our environment simply cannot afford to wait any longer to rein in the hazards posed by the shoddy and irresponsible coal ash disposal practices that currently exist.

The coal ash hearing will take place today at noon. Witnesses include experts on mining, clean water, and public health. More Information can be found on the Committee's website.

Legislation like this is one more step toward reducing -- and eventually eliminating – the many harmful impacts of burning dirty coal. To get more active on coal, and climate in general, check out our newly-updated Climate Precinct Captains tool. Organize in your neighborhood, and help make sure Congress doesn't forget about the Tennessee coal sludge spill.

* Ed. Note: The original version of this post listed today's hearing as a full committee hearing. It has since been corrected. -- Luis

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