The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Coal Ash Industry Allowed to Edit EPA Reports

Reports to Congress, Brochures, “Fact Sheets” Tailored to Allay Industry Concerns


For years U.S. Environmental Protection Agency publications and
reports about uses and dangers of coal combustion waste have been
edited by coal ash industry representatives, according to EPA documents
released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
(PEER). Not surprisingly, the coal ash industry watered down official
reports, brochures and fact-sheets to remove references to potential
dangers and play up "environmental benefits" of a wide range of
applications for coal combustion wastes - the same materials that EPA
is currently deciding whether to classify as hazardous wastes following
the disastrous December 2008 coal ash spill in Tennessee.

the Bush administration, EPA entered into a formal partnership with the
coal industry, most prominently, the American Coal Ash Association, to
promote coal combustion wastes for industrial, agricultural and
consumer product uses. This effort has helped grow a multi-billion
dollar market which the industry worries would be crimped by a
hazardous waste designation.

The documents obtained by PEER
under the Freedom of Information Act show how this partnership gave the
coal ash industry a chance to change a variety of EPA draft
publications and presentations, including -

  • Removal of
    "cautionary language" about application of coal combustion wastes on
    agricultural lands in an EPA brochure to be replaced with "exclamation
    point ! language" "re-affirming the environmental benefits...that
    reinforces the idea that FGD [flue gas desulfurization] gypsum is a
    good thing" in the word of an American Coal Ash Association
  • A draft of EPA's 2007 Report to Congress
    caused industry to lobby for insertion of language about the need for
    "industry and EPA [to] work together" to weaken or block "state
    regulations [that] are hindering progress" for greater use of the coal
    combustion wastes; and
  • EPA fact-sheets and PowerPoint
    presentations were altered at industry urging to delete significant
    references to certain potential "high risk" uses of coal combustion

"For most of the past decade, it appears that
every EPA publication on the subject was ghostwritten by the American
Coal Ash Association," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, who
examined thousands of industry-EPA communications. "In this partnership
it is clear that industry is EPA's senior partner."

collaboration is not limited to publications, however. EPA staff also
forewarned industry about conference calls and other intra-agency
deliberations, such as growing concerns about "increased leaching of
arsenic" from "increased use of fly ash" in order to let industry know
where to target its lobbying efforts. The working relationship is so
close that a coal ash industry representative joked to EPA staff in an
October 27, 2008 e-mail, referring to a news article about mercury
contamination from coal ash:

"We are in bed with
the EPA again, it looks, at least according to this article. The
advocacy groups are well organized and have the ready ear of the

"It is no joke - the terms of the coal ash
partnership tucks EPA snugly into bed with industry for the purpose of
marketing coal combustion wastes as a product," Ruch added noting that
the partnership is still in effect. "EPA is supposed to be an objective
regulatory agency dedicated to protecting the public instead of
protecting a gigantic subsidy for a powerful industry."


Review the EPA partnership with the coal industry

Read e-mail about replacing cautionary with exclamation point language

See industry comments on draft EPA Report to Congress

Examine alterations to EPA PowerPoint presentation

Trace industry changes to EPA "fact-sheet"

Look at EPA heads-up to industry

View the "in bed with EPA" e-mail

Revisit partnership to promote coal waste in agriculture

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.