The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Raviya Ismail,  (202) 667-4500, ext. 221

Groups Challenge Weak Air Pollution Standard

Would allow coal dust from roads at coal processing plants


Clean air advocates filed a legal challenge against the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency late Monday for refusing to adopt air
pollution standards to limit coal dust pollution from roads at coal
preparation and processing plants.

Earthjustice, representing the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices and
the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards is challenging revised air
pollution standards that do not require coal preparation and processing
plants to take any measures to limit the dangerous coal dust kicked up
by trucks travelling on plant roads.

"While the EPA has declared carbon emissions as dangerous there is a
little-known issue affecting people in Appalachia," said Tim Ballo,
attorney with Earthjustice. "Communities breathing in coal dust also
contend with trucks that release these dangerous particles into the
air. Even simple measures like washing trucks or wetting down roads to
help clean up the air around these coal plants would help communities.
Knowing what we know about how dangerous it is to inhale these
particles we urge the EPA to revisit this standard and enforce policies
that prioritize public health."

Tim Bailey, of Clinchfield, Virginia, lives next door to a coal
preparation and processing plant and sets aside four days a year to
pressure wash coal dust from his home.

"Trucks from the prep plant kick up so much dust that a doctor has
told me not to let my grandchildren play outside," said Bailey, of the
Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards. "The EPA needs to put a stop to
this so that we can enjoy our homes again."

Coal prep plants crush, sort, clean and dry coal to prepare it for
combustion. Coal prep plants play a key role in both the coal mining
and electric utility industry, as well as in other industries that rely
heavily on coal for energy, such as cement and steel production. There
are more than 250 coal prep plants in operation nationwide, with a high
concentration of facilities found in the Appalachian coal fields where
many communities are often in close proximity to the operations. EPA
projects that the industry will experience significant growth in the
next five years, with 22 new, modified, or reconstructed plants coming
into existence. These plants are commonly located near mine sites and
at facilities such as power plants.

Coal dust emissions from trucks transporting coal across roadways at
coal prep plants are a significant source of pollutants that cause
serious health problems. Every day, the hundreds of trucks servicing
such plants track fine coal particles onto roads and then drive over
them, kicking coal dust up into the air. Coal dust is an especially
dangerous contaminant that contains traces of the same hazardous
compounds that are released when coal is combusted, such as arsenic,
mercury, and uranium.

"The ill-effects of breathing coal dust can and do impact
communities as well as those employed in the mining industry," said
Willa Mays, Executive Director of Appalachian Voices. "Miners, truckers
and other employees at prep plants are also endangered by breathing
these air pollutants. The Clean Air Act requires that EPA and coal
companies do more to protect the health of people from the harmful
effects of coal dust."

"The EPA has to address all sources of dust coming from these coal
prep plants, including the significant amount of dust that comes from
trucks and roads," said Mary Anne Hitt, Deputy Director of the Sierra
Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "By failing to provide limits on road
dust, the EPA has not satisfied its duty to protect public health."

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.