Administrative Law Judge reversed earlier decision in a coal ash case, ruling that state environmental officials exceeded their authority when they allowed the ash to be disposed in unexcavated areas of the Brickhaven and Colon mines. Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League organizer Therese Vick praised the decision and admonished the agency for issuing the permits. “DEQ knew what they did was wrong, yet they kept trying to defend the indefensible,” Vick wrote in a press statement. “No community should ever have to go through this again.” Read more.
The EPA announced that it will roll back regulations on coal-fired power plants and the disposal of residual toxic wastewater and coal ash. The deregulation will allow facilities to store coal ash in storage ponds longer putting them at greater risk for groundwater leakage and overflow from large storms. The loosening of the 2015 regulations set in place by the Obama administration has created concern for greater water contamination for communities in close proximity to coal plants. Read More.
Four environmental groups today announced an historic agreement to reduce toxic pollutants leaking from a power plant’s coal ash dumps into groundwater and the Susquehanna River, the largest Chesapeake Bay tributary.
“This enforcement action is one of historic proportions, since it’s the largest penalty ever assessed at a coal ash pollution site in Pennsylvania history,” said David Masur, Executive Director of PennEnvironment. “We are glad to see DEP working with citizen groups to reach this important settlement for the good of the Commonwealth.” Read more.
An examination of monitoring data available for the first time concludes that 91 percent of U.S. coal-fired power plants with monitoring data are contaminating groundwater with unsafe levels of toxic pollutants. Read more here
In just two years, President Trump has unleashed a regulatory rollback, lobbied for and cheered on by industry, with little parallel in the past half-century. The trade-offs, while often out of public view, are real — frighteningly so, for some people — imperiling progress in cleaning up the air we breathe and the water we drink, and in some cases upending the very relationship with the environment around us. Mr. Trump enthusiastically promotes the changes as creating jobs, freeing business from the shackles of government and helping the economy grow. Read more NYT.
Environmental activists want more testing and accountability following coal ash breaches at two Duke Energy sites.
Critics contend that officials have been too slow to collect water samples and hold the utility accountable after gray muck from ash pits flooded into the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers last month.
This is the third coal ash spill that’s been reported since Florence’s historic rainfall caused catastrophic flooding throughout the state. Duke Energy, the country’s largest electric company, has been fighting attempts to force clean-up of these ponds for years. President Donald Trump’s administration has also loosened several regulations on coal ash storage.
In addition to coal ash spills, at least 110 ponds of pig feces have either released their contents into the environment or are at “imminent risk of doing so,” The New York Times reported on Wednesday. Those spills are presenting health concerns, too. “You basically have a toxic soup for people who live in close proximity to those lagoons,” Sacoby Wilson, a professor of public health at the University of Maryland, told Vice News. “All of these contaminants that are in the hog lagoons, like salmonella, giardia, and E-coli, can get into the waterways and infect people trying to get out.”
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.
On Wednesday, September 20, Hurricane Maria made a direct hit to Puerto Rico– virtually destroying most of its infrastructure and plunging Puerto Ricans into a humanitarian crisis. About 97% of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million population is without power, and about half without running water. Let’s not forget that these are American citizens we are talking about.
The Trump Administration’s response has been significantly slower and less effective than the response to Hurricane Harvey and Irma. President Trump tweeted about the situation on Monday, stating that,“Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.”
His lack of empathy towards a U.S. territory struggling to survive following a disaster is alarming, even for him. Focusing on the massive debt held by Puerto Rico, whose economy is now even more ravaged than it was before, is just cruel but unacceptable.
Gov. Ricardo Rossell of Puerto Rico urged Congress to approve a commensurate aid package. A week after the hurricane, FEMA put out a statement that they have airplanes and ships loaded with meals, water and generators headed to the island.
In addition to the ongoing crisis, the Guajataca Dam in the island’s northwest corner has suffered a “critical infrastructure failure,” which poses immediate flooding threats to about 70,000 people. While the majority of residents in the potential flood zone have evacuated, efforts are being made to evacuate periphery areas.
The path for Puerto Rico ahead is uncertain. Its power grid is almost entirely wiped out, and has proven to lack resilience. Many experts on disaster response urge for the opportunity to be taken to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid from the ground up– a project that would require billions of dollars.
Not to mention, there are 23 Superfund sites on the island that likely have contaminated soil and groundwater. Unexploded bombs, bullets, and projectiles are among the toxic contents of these Superfund sites, specifically on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques which was used by the military as a bomb-test site.
In the southern coastal town of Guayama, a five-story pile of coal ash has been sitting next to a low-income, minority community of 45,000 people. This ash contains heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, and chromium. The company responsible is Applied Energy Systems (AES), which was ordered to remove the pile prior to the hurricane but whether this was done is unclear. It is highly likely that this toxic ash has contaminated the surrounding land water sources.
At this point, we must continue to urge the U.S. government to provide ongoing aid to our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. Be sure to check back with CHEJ on the front of environmental justice for Puerto Ricans following this humanitarian disaster.
Click on the below link to see how you can help the victims of Hurricane Maria:
I can’t believe that President Obama drank a sip of water from Flint. It was a slap in the face to so many people. His own agency was responsible for not raising the alarms when EPA received data that said the water was poisoned. Obama has done a number of extraordinary things while in office. Yes, I voted for him and yes, I’d likely do it again. I’m stunned. What in the world could Obama have been thinking when he drank that water? Of course there is no way his water was toxic from chemicals, viruses or bacteria let alone lead. Further dismissing the crisis, he said he likely eat lead paint chips as a child. Really? That dismissal brings no comfort to the parents of lead poisoned children who will never reach their birth potential and are sick. I can’t help but wonder if Gina McCarthy orchestrated that news event.
Obama’s person in charge, Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator has ignored literally all but one division of EPA’s programs and responsibility including drinking water. The one exception since she was confirmed in July 2013 is climate change. Remember the January 2014 West Virginia Elk River spill that poisoned the drinking water of 300,000 people. Drinking water in schools, hospitals, family homes with pregnant women and small children were exposed to toxic chemicals resulting in serious health impacts. The company responsible had not been inspected by EPA since 1991. You would think that McCarthy’s EPA would monitor the site after the spill but they didn’t. Seven months later, in June 2014, another spill from the same company occurred from a sump pump malfunction into the same Elk River.
Then in February 2014 there was the Dan River coal ash spill that poisoned the river from Virginia to North Carolina. For a week a pipe poured arsenic and other heavy metals 140,000 tons of toxic waste and wastewater directly into the river. Ash was found on the bottom of the river for 70 miles and as much as 5 feet deep in places.
Today, the question of what to do with coal ash wastes is still a problem especially for low income communities. EPA is behind the proposal to dump it in garbage landfills in mostly low wealth, rural, communities of color. Gina McCarthy supports this proposal but the US Commission on Civil Rights is investigating the fairness of the plan.
The Colorado Animas River spill was solely the fault of EPA’s lack of careful attention. It was EPA that accidentally released an estimate of three million gallons of waste water into the river in August 2015. This river supplies drinking water to area residents. EPA authorities knew about the risk through a June 2014 work order that read “Conditions may exist that could result in a blowout of the blockages and cause a release of large volumes of contaminated mine waters and sediment from inside the mine, which contain concentrated heavy metals” and through a May 2015 action plan for the mine that also noted “the potential for a blowout.” People living along the Animas and San Juan rivers were advised to have their water tested before using it for cooking, drinking, or bathing. The spill also caused major problems for farmers and ranchers who rely on the rivers for their livelihoods.
The next crisis is likely in St Louis, MO. An underground fire from one old dump site is creeping towards the adjunct radioactive site. When the fire reaches the radioactive materials the state’s Attorney General’s experts say there could be a Chernobyl like event. This possible crisis can be taken care and avoided but McCarthy is not acting. Saying you are sorry and accepting the resignation of staff is not how to run an agency.
McCarthy has hurt so many innocent American people and the reputation of the agency is questionable. I don’t know if EPA can ever recover. Her advice to the President should have been, say you’re sorry, don’t act like me, an incompetent leader and declare the situation what it is a disaster. Then bring in the troops to change the pipes so everyone can be sure their water is safe.