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Trump’s EPA gives power plants a pass on deadly coal ash

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FILE PHOTO: Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler speaks during an event hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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Sarah Okeson
Sarah Okeson

Retiree Julie Pease and her husband moved into their modest lakefront home near Herrington Lake in Kentucky eight years ago, but she won’t eat the fish because the lake is polluted by coal ash from the nearby power plant.

Team Trump recently pushed back the deadlines for utilities to close an estimated 523 leaking, unstable or dangerously-sited coal ash ponds. Kentucky Utilities, which operates the E.W. Brown power plant in Harrodsburg, Ky., closed its main coal ash pond in 2008, but the six million tons of coal ash that remain at the site has polluted Herrington Lake.

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“The fact that we could retire from New Jersey and buy a home on the lake was very appealing to us,” said Pease who didn’t know about the pollution when they bought their house.

Coal-burning power plants produce about 100 million tons of coal ash a year. Arsenic, lead and mercury lace the ash. Companies mixed the ash with water and stored it in unlined pits called coal ash ponds, often near rivers or lakes such as Herrington Lake which was built in the 1920s.

Julie Pease on Herrington Lake with her dog, Charley.

About a third of power plants with coal ash dumps are in the southeast. About 41% are in the Midwest, and about 10% are in the Southwest.

Under the law, the EPA is required to ensure that there is “no reasonable probability of adverse effects on health or the environment.” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who previously lobbied for a coal company, maintains that allowing coal ash ponds to stay open longer still meets this standard because the agency will require some utilities to submit risk mitigations plans and “meet the baseline level of acceptable risk.”

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[action]

ACTION BOX/What You Can Do About It

Tell EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler your thoughts on regulating coal ash. Call Wheeler at 202-564-4700 or write to him at EPA Headquarters / William Jefferson Clinton Building / 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW / Mail Code: 1101A / Washington, D.C. 20460.

Contact the Kentucky Waterways Alliance online or at [email protected]

 

[/action]

 

“Extending closure deadlines delays necessary cleanup, allows ongoing contamination to worsen, and puts communities at risk from the catastrophic harms that happen when impoundments fail or flood,” said Lauren Piette, an attorney for Earthjustice.

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A spokesperson for Kentucky Utilities did not respond to an email from DCReport.org.

Court Cases

Dave Pease on Herrington Lake with Penny, a rescue dog.

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A coal ash rule passed under former President Barack Obama allowed power companies to put coal ash in unlined ponds indefinitely, until their operators determined they were leaking. Federal judges threw that out in a 2018 decision, Utility Solid Waste Activities Group v. EPA.

Wheeler used that decision and a 2019 decision, Waterkeeper Alliance Inc. v. EPA, to rewrite regulations to benefit utilities. The Trump EPA initially gave power companies until Oct. 31, 2020 to stop receiving waste and start closing unlined, leaking ponds.

Eight More Years

Wheeler’s new rule says power plants have until April 11, 2021 to stop sending coal ash ponds and start the closure process. Plants can get extensions until 2023, 2024 and even 2028.

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Wheeler’s new rule is expected to save utilities $26.1 million a year.

At Herrington Lake, selenium, an element that is concentrated in coal ash, is poisoning fish and causing deformities in juvenile largemouth bass. Kentucky Waterways Alliance and the Sierra Club have sued Kentucky Utilities over pollution in the lake, and the state recently held a hearing.

Pease, who used to work at a Habitat for Humanity, and her husband, a retired high school math teacher, get their drinking water from the lake, but they filter it. They like to kayak on the lake with their dogs and go swimming.

“We were absolutely drawn by the beauty of the place where we live,” Pease said.

ADVERTISEMENT

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Trump’s EPA gives power plants a pass on deadly coal ash

Donald Trump (Saul Loeb:AFP)

This article was paid for by Raw Story subscribers. Not a subscriber? Try us and go ad-free for $1. Prefer to give a one-time tip? Click here.

Sarah Okeson
Sarah Okeson

Retiree Julie Pease and her husband moved into their modest lakefront home near Herrington Lake in Kentucky eight years ago, but she won’t eat the fish because the lake is polluted by coal ash from the nearby power plant.

Team Trump recently pushed back the deadlines for utilities to close an estimated 523 leaking, unstable or dangerously-sited coal ash ponds. Kentucky Utilities, which operates the E.W. Brown power plant in Harrodsburg, Ky., closed its main coal ash pond in 2008, but the six million tons of coal ash that remain at the site has polluted Herrington Lake.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The fact that we could retire from New Jersey and buy a home on the lake was very appealing to us,” said Pease who didn’t know about the pollution when they bought their house.

Coal-burning power plants produce about 100 million tons of coal ash a year. Arsenic, lead and mercury lace the ash. Companies mixed the ash with water and stored it in unlined pits called coal ash ponds, often near rivers or lakes such as Herrington Lake which was built in the 1920s.

Julie Pease on Herrington Lake with her dog, Charley.

About a third of power plants with coal ash dumps are in the southeast. About 41% are in the Midwest, and about 10% are in the Southwest.

Under the law, the EPA is required to ensure that there is “no reasonable probability of adverse effects on health or the environment.” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who previously lobbied for a coal company, maintains that allowing coal ash ponds to stay open longer still meets this standard because the agency will require some utilities to submit risk mitigations plans and “meet the baseline level of acceptable risk.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“Extending closure deadlines delays necessary cleanup, allows ongoing contamination to worsen, and puts communities at risk from the catastrophic harms that happen when impoundments fail or flood,” said Lauren Piette, an attorney for Earthjustice.

A spokesperson for Kentucky Utilities did not respond to an email from DCReport.org.

Court Cases

Dave Pease on Herrington Lake with Penny, a rescue dog.

ADVERTISEMENT

A coal ash rule passed under former President Barack Obama allowed power companies to put coal ash in unlined ponds indefinitely, until their operators determined they were leaking. Federal judges threw that out in a 2018 decision, Utility Solid Waste Activities Group v. EPA.

Wheeler used that decision and a 2019 decision, Waterkeeper Alliance Inc. v. EPA, to rewrite regulations to benefit utilities. The Trump EPA initially gave power companies until Oct. 31, 2020 to stop receiving waste and start closing unlined, leaking ponds.

ADVERTISEMENT

Eight More Years

Wheeler’s new rule says power plants have until April 11, 2021 to stop sending coal ash ponds and start the closure process. Plants can get extensions until 2023, 2024 and even 2028.

Wheeler’s new rule is expected to save utilities $26.1 million a year.

At Herrington Lake, selenium, an element that is concentrated in coal ash, is poisoning fish and causing deformities in juvenile largemouth bass. Kentucky Waterways Alliance and the Sierra Club have sued Kentucky Utilities over pollution in the lake, and the state recently held a hearing.

ADVERTISEMENT

Pease, who used to work at a Habitat for Humanity, and her husband, a retired high school math teacher, get their drinking water from the lake, but they filter it. They like to kayak on the lake with their dogs and go swimming.

“We were absolutely drawn by the beauty of the place where we live,” Pease said.

This article was paid for by Raw Story subscribers. Not a subscriber? Try us and go ad-free for $1. Prefer to give a one-time tip? Click here.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Mike Pompeo wants to classify international human rights groups as ‘anti-Semitic’: report

Published

on

On Wednesday, Politico and The Washington Post reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is proposing several major international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam, be classified as "anti-Semitic" groups — and that a formal declaration could come later this week at the earliest, with the intention of preventing other governments around the world from working with them.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

FBI rebuts unfounded Trump claim of rigged election — Iran was behind Proud Boy emails to Florida Dems

Published

on

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced Wednesday evening that the FBI has determined that Iran was behind the voter suppression emails sent to Democrats in Florida.

Speaking at an announcement from the headquarters, Ratcliffe blamed Iran and Russia for being involved in fraudulent election interactions. Unlike GOP accusations in the past, China and Ukraine were not named by Ratcliffe.

A Homeland Security official also claimed "they had detected holes in state and local election websites and instructed those participating to patch their online services," reported the Washington Post.

Continue Reading
 

2020 Election

‘Crazy uncle’ Trump triggered by Obama — goes on Breitbart retweeting spree

Published

on

Former President Barack Obama returned to the campaign trail Wednesday in Philadelphia, Penn. in support of his former vice president, Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

"[Trump] hasn't shown any interest in doing the work, or helping anybody but himself and his friends, or treating the presidency, like a reality show that he can use to get attention," Obama said. "And by the way, even then his TV ratings are down. So you know that upsets him. But the thing is this is not a reality show. This is reality, and the rest of us have had to live with the consequences of him, proving himself incapable of taking the job seriously."

Continue Reading
 
 
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