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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

Mary Trump sues president and his siblings for cheating her out of family inheritance

Published

on

President Donald Trump and his sibling were sued by their niece, who claims the family cheated her out of millions of dollars.

Mary Trump, whose best-selling memoir describes a deeply dysfunctional family, filed a suit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan accusing the president, his sister Maryanne Trump Barry and their late brother Robert Trump of fraud and civil conspiracy, reported the New York Times.

The suit seeks to recover millions of dollars Mary Trump says she was owed from her own late father's inheritance after his 1981 death, when she was just 16 years old.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Mitch McConnell slammed for his ‘oddly specific’ promise to accept results of Nov. 3 election

Published

on

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) added his voice to statements issued by other Republican lawmakers assuring they would accept the election results -- which President Donald Trump suggested he would not.

The president refused to commit to the peaceful transition of power if he loses to Joe Biden, and McConnell and some other Republicans offered some sort of assurance they would -- although none mentioned Trump by name and some suggested Biden had made similar threats.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

WATCH: Public health officials rip Trump-loving mayor to his face after he links them to ‘violent mobs’

Published

on

Tennessee Mayor Glenn Jacobs came under fire from his own public health officials this week after he narrated a video that attacked them as "sinister" bureaucrats who were linked to "violent mobs" trying to install a "socialist utopia."

Knox News reports that during a Knox County Board of Health meeting on Wednesday night, several members of the board ripped Jacobs to his face for narrating and posting a right-wing propaganda video that claimed scientists were working with left-wing anarchists to bring down the United States.

Continue Reading
 
 
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