In North Carolina, Duke Energy is storing 130 million tons of coal ash at 32 sites at 14 power plants. The state law requires Duke to safely move all of it by 2029, and from four leaking ash ponds by 2019. Where is Duke planning to put the toxic ash? Not surprisingly, in a low-income community of color in Lee County, NC.
Local resident Donna Bray said, “Duke is hitting the poorest rural neighborhoods, where they think people won’t be able to fight back against a big corporation. I’m worried about contamination of the vegetable garden that provides half the family’s food.
Duke might think they can dump in Lee County because it’s not seen as wealthy or powerful, but residents are getting organized. “This community is not willing to stand by and be dumped on — it’s a toxic mess, and we don’t want it,” said Therese Vick of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, which has organized hundreds of residents opposed to Duke’s plan.
The United States uses coal to generate 30 percent of its electricity. A typical power plant produces more than 125,000 tons of coal ash—the byproduct of burning coal—every year. Earthjustice estimates there are more than 1,400 coal ash sites in the United States and at least 200 of them are “known to have contaminated water sources.”
For decades, power companies dumped this toxic waste, which can contain toxic metals such as arsenic and mercury, into unlined ponds that had the potential to leak and contaminate the drinking water of nearby communities.
Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency recently announced it will scrap Obama-era rules governing coal ash disposal. The Obama administration finalized regulations in 2015 that imposed new standards on coal-ash disposal sites, in part by increasing inspections and monitoring and requiring measures such as liners in new waste pits to prevent leaks that might threaten nearby drinking water supplies.
The changes Pruitt is making would provide companies with annual compliance cost savings of up to $100 million, but environmentalists warn that doing away with the regulations risks poisoning clean drinking water for millions of Americans and pollute already-endangered ecosystems.
The changes would extend how long the over 400 coal-fired power plants across the country can maintain unlined coal ash ponds and allow states to determine how frequently they would test disposal sites for groundwater contamination.
Bottom line, energy corporations save $100 million and it place over 1.5 million children who live near coal ash disposal sites across the country, an increase risk of developing learning disabilities, asthma, cancer or born with birth defects.
If you are interested in making comments to Trump’s plan to scrap the coal ash rules click this link.