WASHINGTON (December 19, 2014) -- Today in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), releasing new rules governing the disposal of toxic byproducts of coal burning, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said the rules would do little to protect families from coal ash


“With this disappointing coal ash rule, the EPA has failed to meet its responsibility to protect the public health and safety of the American people. For decades the coal industry has been left to its own devices to come up with ways to hide and dispose of the nearly 140 million tons of toxic coal ash produced each year, sometimes with catastrophic effects on families and the environment,” said Senator Markey. “Industry’s way of doing business has resulted in hundreds of cases of tainted rivers and water sources, sickened families and destroyed lives. These new EPA rules do little to change the status quo, and will allow polluters to continue to dump coal ash waste in unlined pits and ponds that are prone to fail.”


When coal is burned for electricity, several byproducts result, most notably a substance called “coal ash.” These byproducts contain high levels of toxic substances like arsenic, mercury and heavy metals that can be harmful to both humans and wildlife.  Much of the leftover waste is stored in waste ponds or other storage methods that have proved to be inadequate at protecting groundwater. Since a massive coal ash spill in Tennessee in 2008, the EPA has documented coal ash waste sites tainting hundreds of waterways and underground sources of drinking water with heavy metals and other toxic contaminants in numerous states.


Since the 1970s, utility companies have been allowed to dispose of coal ash under state laws that vary widely across jurisdictions and in many cases are lax or absent. There are no federal regulations applying to its disposal.


As Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, Markey held a hearing on the impacts of coal ash on drinking water sources and public health, and conducted oversight on EPA’s efforts to identify and characterize coal ash disposal sites, and offered amendments requiring more protective disposal of the waste.


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