The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

EPA False Claims of Greenhouse Gas Savings from Coal Ash

Complaint Filed to Delete Inaccurate Statements from EPA Website and Publications


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency routinely makes the false
claim that putting coal combustion wastes into consumer and commercial
products actually reduces generation of greenhouse gases associated with
climate change. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
(PEER) today filed a complaint against the agency demanding that
numerous inaccurate statements touting the greenhouse gas benefits of
coal ash be removed from the EPA website and publications.

has a formal promotional partnership with the coal industry to expand
use of coal ash and other coal combustion wastes in products such as
cement, wallboard, carpet backing and consumer products such as kitchen
counters and even cosmetics and toothpaste. As part of this campaign,
EPA repeatedly represents that using coal ash reduces greenhouse gas
emissions because it substitutes for virgin materials.

huge fallacy is that EPA claims generally omit any mention of the
massive amounts of greenhouse gases emitted in mining and burning the
coal to produce the ash. Many of the EPA assertions are made without
reference sources, methodology or qualification. Occasionally the
agency inserts a footnote that it makes the highly questionable
assumption that coal ash is carbon neutral for purposes of its claims.

"Coal is our biggest source of greenhouse gases. It is the height of
absurdity to contend that the toxic wastes produced by coal combustion
help our atmosphere," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting
that EPA recently suspended the coal ash promotion campaign (called the
Coal Combustion Product Partnership or C2P2) while it considers whether
to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste.

The PEER complaint is
filed under the Data Quality Act which requires that materials
distributed or relied upon by federal agencies be accurate, complete and
unbiased. In addition to the central flaw mentioned above, the PEER
complaint cites the fact that EPA's coal ash claims -

  • Violate
    its own guidelines published for calculating lifecycle emissions;
  • Bury
    its own conclusion that coal ash use "may not be an efficient method
    for reducing overall emissions" of greenhouse gases and may in fact be a
    net detriment; and
  • Are internally inconsistent and usually are

EPA has 90 days to respond to the complaint.
If it rejects the complaint, PEER may file an administrative appeal
forcing the formation of a three-member executive panel to review the
matter. The decision by that review panel is final.

"EPA is
guilty of false advertising. Using taxpayer dollars to mislead the
public adds insult to the injury," added Ruch. "EPA should purge this
nonsense from its website now."

the PEER Data Quality Complaint

at a typical example of an inaccurate EPA claim of GHG savings from
coal ash

View how
"beneficial reuse" of coal ash looms over current regulatory debate

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.