Call to Revoke LEED Credits for Coal Ash

For Immediate Release


Megan Corrado (202) 265-7337

Call to Revoke LEED Credits for Coal Ash

Toxic Coal Combustion Wastes Should Not Be Considered “Green” Material

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Green Building Council should stop conferring LEED credits
for use of coal combustion wastes in construction, according to public
comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER). Coal ash and other wastes from coal-fired
plants are used in cement, concrete counters, wallboard, carpet backing
and many other interior and exterior components.

Developed by
the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED (Leadership in Energy &
Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized certification
system that measures energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions
reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of
resources and sensitivity to their impacts. By these standards, PEER
argues that LEED credits given to coal ash as a "recycled" material
should be revoked because, among other reasons -

  • Coal
    combustion wastes are unquestionably toxic and will become more so when a
    new generation of air pollution controls will scrub much more mercury
    out of smokestack emissions, trapping it in the combustion waste;
  • Construction
    materials containing coal ash are often disposed of in ways that
    release their toxic contents into the environment, through incineration
    or dumping into unlined landfills; and
  • Creating coal ash generates huge amounts of climate altering greenhouse gases.

"LEED now gives green credit for what is an ultimately brown act -
putting coal ash into our homes, schools, and office buildings," stated
PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the coal ash market
constitutes a multi-billion dollar subsidy to coal-fired power. "If
coal power generators had to responsibly handle their wastes, coal would
not be so much cheaper than solar and other renewable power sources."

LEED standards are now up for review through a public comment period
which ends this week. Public comments are incorporated into a draft
revision, which is then posted, and a second comment period is held
beginning July 1, 2011. The final draft is then delivered to Green
Building Council members for a vote. PEER is seeking to change both
building and interior construction ratings.

"From wallboard in
your child's bedroom to your kitchen counter to your office carpet,
American buildings are becoming a major repository for toxic waste,"
added Ruch, pointing out that fly ash from municipal solid waste
incinerators does not qualify as a recycled-content material for LEED
credits. In addition, LEED for Health Care requires cement made from
coal wastes to meet a strict mercury limit (5.5 parts per billion).
"This LEED revision process presents an opportunity to reconsider the
wisdom of embedding coal ash throughout our indoor environment."

ash and other combustion wastes constitute the second biggest waste
stream in the nation, second only to the debris from coal mining itself.
Today, neatly half (60 million of the 136 million tons) of the wastes
generated are reused with little or no oversight or analysis of
environmental impact, despite a growing body of scientific research
indicating that toxic substances within these wastes (arsenic, lead,
mercury, chromium, thallium, dioxin, and other contaminants) will reach
our waters, air and soil.


Read the PEER comments

Look at the LEED standard-setting process

See what products contain coal ash

View PEER petition to remove coal ash from federal procurement


Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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