This post is co-written by Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, and Lyndsay Moseley, Washington Representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.
Recently the Sierra Club, along with a coalition of more than 100 organizations signed a letter calling on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson to move quickly to develop strong regulations for the handling and disposal of coal combustion waste to prevent a repeat event like the December 2008 Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash disaster in Kingston, Tenn.
This disaster demonstrated first hand how the coal industry has enjoyed a giant loophole for far too long. Under this loophole, they get to store billions of gallons of highly hazardous waste in a less responsible manner than household waste has to be treated.
Our letter outlined 12 key principles including the phase-out of wet storage facilities all together. The coal ash storage sites like the one that breached in Kingston are a tremendous threat, as demonstrated in an extensive EPA report unveiled by the Environmental Integrity Project: “An EPA risk assessment documents excess cancer risks of up to 1 in 50 for residents living near unlined ash ponds.”
This week, we received a response from Administrator Jackson that outlines some of the steps EPA has already begun to take regarding coal combustion waste, including a survey of structural integrity of existing impoundments. Jackson reiterated her intent that EPA is committed to developing regulations by the end of the year, and indicated that she will consider our input in developing those regulations.