Groups to Feds: Communities Have Right to Know of Toxic Coal Ash Sites

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Lisa Evans, Earthjustice, (781) 631-4119

Groups to Feds: Communities Have Right to Know of Toxic Coal Ash Sites

Ask agencies to disclose 44 'high hazard' sites

WASHINGTON - A coalition of environmental groups today formally asked the
Department of Homeland Security, the Army Corp of Engineers and
Environmental Protection Agency to make public the list of 44 "high
hazard" coal ash disposal sites across the country. The Freedom of
Information Act request was submitted by the Sierra Club, Earthjustice,
the Environmental Integrity Project, and Natural Resources Defense
Council after the EPA refused to disclose which of the hundreds of coal
ash sites pose such a threat to nearby communities that they have been
deemed by the Obama administration to be a national security risk.

"The Department of Homeland Security has designated 44 massive coal
ash piles as 'high hazard' because they present a clear and present
danger to the people living near them," said Bruce Nilles, Director of
the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "People have a right to know if
mountains of toxic coal ash are threatening their communities so they
can take action and put pressure on their local utilities to demand
clean up."

The EPA was instructed by the Department of Homeland Security not to
release information about the location of high hazard dams containing
coal ash. Unspecified national security concerns were cited as the
reason for withholding this critical information from the public, even
though the locations of other hazardous sites, such as nuclear plants
are publicly available.

"EPA was exactly right to ask utilities for information on their
high risk waste disposal sites," said Lisa Evans of Earthjustice. "The
nature and location of these dump sites are precisely what EPA and the
public need to know -- the free flow of information will help stop the
flow of toxic ash into our communities."

Coal ash sites contain harmful levels of arsenic, lead, mercury and
other toxins, which can leach out slowly contaminating drinking water
sources, or as in the case of the 44 "high hazard" sites, flood nearby
communities with a life-threatening wave of toxic sludge as happened
last year in Tennessee.

"The industry has told us for decades that coal ash is perfectly
safe -- now we're told that some of their ash dumps are so dangerous,
the federal government is afraid to tell us where they are. We need to
move beyond this 'see no evil' approach, and regulate these unsafe
practices," said Eric Schaeffer, Director of the Environmental
Integrity Project.

The dangers of coal ash are yet another reminder of the need to
clean up coal's toxic legacy and speed up the transition to cleaner,
safer energy sources.

Last Friday at a press conference Senator Barbara Boxer disclosed
that she has been muzzled and prohibited from telling the nation about
the location of these 44 dangerous sites. Senator Boxer has pushed back
and demanded openness. "We applaud Senator Boxer for her tireless work
to protect communities from the dangers of coal ash," added Nilles.

Download copies of the requests here:

EPA FOIA: http://www.earthjustice.org/library/legal_docs/epa-foia-letter-061809.pdf

DHS FOIA: http://www.earthjustice.org/library/legal_docs/dhs-foia-letter-061809.pdf

ACOE FOIA: http://www.earthjustice.org/library/legal_docs/acoe-foia-letter-061809.pdf 

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Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.

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