Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 105: Get Off Your Coal Ash and Do Something

Coal ash (sometimes called fly ash) is the toxic byproduct of burning coal for energy. Coal powers 60% of the American energy diet. Chances are you benefit in some way from the production and burning of coal, and by extension, you are responsible for a portion of the ensuing coal ash.

Coal ash is toxic and disgusting and difficult to contain (NYT). It causes birth defects and cancer (Miami Herald) in communities where it is dumped. Coal companies have tried keeping it contained in ponds, but sometimes they break, flooding nearby towns with ash slurry. Below is a picture of a house flooded by toxic coal ash slurry in December 2008. Note the Christmas bows on the wreaths. (Appalachian Voices)

This week, the EPA has proposed two possible solutions to the Coal Ash Disposal problem. (1) phase out coal ash storage ponds; (2) allow ash ponds, but only if they have plastic liners.

The first solution is better but the second solution is preferred by the coal industry. The EPA is giving the public 90 days to comment on which solution they like better. Then, at the end of 90 days, they will decide which one to do.

What's strange is that the 90-day window is already ticking away (we're on Day 88 or 87 right now, not sure which), but the EPA hasn't yet posted a place on to take public comments. You're supposed to be able to put in the Docket # EPA–HQ–RCRA–2010–0640 and get a result. But no dice.

I'll write more later when I figure out how Jane Q. Public is actually supposed to respond with comments to this. :(

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