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November 18, 2010

Last Chance to Tell EPA We Want Strong Coal Ash Safeguards

This is the weekly blog post by Bruce Nilles, Deputy Conservation Director of the Sierra Club.

The comment period ends tomorrow for the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed federal safeguards for toxic coal ash.

Coal ash is the by-product of burning coal for electricity, and it contains a toxic mix of chemicals: mercury, arsenic, lead, chromium, selenium, and more.

We've been calling for strong federal safeguards from EPA during the comment period over the past few months. You've seen more than 2,000 people wanting protection from coal ash rally and then pack the eight EPA public hearings across the U.S.We've helped more than 118,000 concerned citizens send in their comments via email and postcard so far.

You've seen my blog profiles of communities affected by coal ash. You've seen the Sierra Club videos about the realities of coal ash (even CNN and 60 Minutes took it on).

And people were still rallying yesterday, as a crowd of concerned families gathered outside EPA's DC headquarters to urge the agency to adopt the strongest coal ash safeguards possible.

EPA is weighing two options for federal regulation of coal ash. Subtitle D, or as we call it - the Neglect Option, would rely on suggested state guidelines. This is no different from current policies. Despite the known toxicity of coal ash, a vast majority of states do not even require monitoring to see if coal ash is polluting drinking water.

It's the lack of federal regulation that led to the current failed patchwork of state protections against coal ash and the massive Tennessee coal ash disaster. Simply telling states and the industry that they really should be more careful is not enough.

And of course, this Neglect option is supported by power companies and other big polluters.

And that's why we support the other option: Subtitle C, or as we call it - the Protect Option. This option would create strong safeguards to protect public health from the threats of coal ash, including mandatory water quality monitoring, record keeping and protections against runoff.

It recognizes that coal ash is substantially more dangerous than household garbage and regulating it like the toxic substance it is will benefit communities and environments across the country.

Coal ash contamination has flown under the radar for far too long. The coal industry should no longer be able to pass off their toxic waste on our communities.

Have you sent your comment to EPA yet? Send it in by Friday, Nov. 19th, at 11:59pm ET.

Take this last chance to tell EPA we need strong federal safeguards (Subtitle C – the Protect option!) for toxic coal ash.

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