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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

2020 Election

Trump continues to ‘lie to us’ about COVID-19 ending — and his facts don’t add up: report

Published

on

President Donald J. Trump joked Tuesday about the coronavirus pandemic that's plagued his own country, killing more than 227,000 Americans to date. And, as the death toll from coronavirus in America steadily climbs with every passing day, it has not stopped the 74-year-old commander-in-chief from proclaiming the nation is "rounding the turn."

According to the CDC, the seven-day average of new cases is nearly 70,000 -- a record number that is only expected to get worse. The COVID Tracking Project cites that more than 42,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, up from an estimated 30,000 one month ago.

Continue Reading

2020 Election

WATCH: Supercut of proof of Donald Trump’s long-held racism

Published

on

Supporters of President Donald J. Trump regularly defend the divisive president claiming he isn’t a racist — but he has a long history showing the contrary. On MSNBC's The Beat with Ari Melber Wednesday, the host shared a supercut of instances where President Donald J. Trump's racism was on full display.

"This year's a fundamental reckoning," Melber began. He later added, "So every voter must answer, 'Are you for or against this?" Melber asked before playing a clip that showed a pre-presidential Trump who sought to disprove then-Democratic candidate Barack Obama's American heritage.

Continue Reading
 

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During Justice Anthony Kennedy's 31 years on the U.S. Supreme Court, liberals and progressives had a love/hate relationship with the Reagan appointee — praising him for his rulings on gay rights and abortion rights while slamming his economic rulings as beneficial to unchecked corporate power. And those who viewed Kennedy as being too quick to side with big business are likely to have similar views on his son, Justin Kennedy, who according to the New York Times, has been very close to Trumpworld and helped Donald Trump secure almost $700 million in loans for a real estate project in Chicago.

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