Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Today: Last coal ash hearing in Tennessee, thanks to citizens

Posted By on Wed, Oct 27, 2010 at 11:58 AM

For reasons unknown, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chose the states to hold public hearings on its proposed coal ash regulations, the agency left out Tennessee. This is dumbfounding since the coal ash spill in that state launched the issue onto the national stage. Well, the citizens protested and the EPA caved. So, nearly a month after their last coal ash hearing, and about six weeks after Charlotte hosted a similar hearing, the people of Tennessee have an opportunity to voice their opinions about the agency's proposed regulation.

The proposed regulations offer two options:

Subtitle C, will re-label coal ash as "special," or hazardous, waste; will be enforced by the state and federal government; require new coal ash ponds to be lined and monitored; will require old ponds to be retrofitted with liners; and, once the coal companies close the plants that produce the ash, both the state and federal government will monitor them.

Under Subtitle D, the regulations will be enforceable through citizen lawsuits; monitoring will be conducted by coal companies themselves; new and old ponds will be lined; and the word "special" will be avoided.

Check out the differences for yourself here.

If you weren't able to attend the hearings but would still like to submit your comments to the EPA, you still have time ... but not much. The last day the agency will accept public comments is Nov. 19. The Catawba Riverkeeper has created a Web page to help those who want to comment but who aren't sure what to say or how to go about submitting them. Here it is. This is your opportunity to say whatever you want to the EPA regarding coal ash impoundments.

This is a big deal for North Carolina because our state has more high-hazard coal ash ponds than any other. "High hazard" means that if the dams holding the ponds in place should collapse — as one nearly did near Wilmington last month — that people could die. And, two of the unlined, high-hazard ponds near Charlotte (there are at least four, all of which are owned by Duke Energy) drain into our main drinking water reservoir, Mountain Island Lake.

Further reading: Is coal ash poisoning our drinking water?

Here's some aerial footage from the coal ash disaster in Tennessee, which occurred shortly before Christmas in 2008, pushing homes off their foundations and uprooting a railroad, roads and more. More than a billion gallons of the sludge gushed out of the broken dam.

Rhiannon "Rhi" Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes snarky commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.

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