The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

EPA Suspends Coal Ash Promotion Program

Abrupt Removal of Own Website While Ash Re-Use Effort Is "Re-Evaluated"


Without public announcement, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency has yanked its own website promoting the re-use of coal ash while
this highly-touted partnership with the coal industry "is being
re-evaluated," according to the lonely disclaimer on now-blank agency
web pages. Today, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
(PEER) wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging her agency to
rethink the full range of risks in putting highly toxic coal combustion
wastes into an array of consumer, agricultural and commercial products -
which is the object of the suspended EPA/coal industry joint venture
called the Coal Combustion Products Partnership or C2P2.

ash and other combustion wastes represent the second biggest waste
stream in the nation, second only to wastes generated by coal mining
itself. Re-use of coal ash has, with active support of EPA, turned into
a multi-billion dollar business that provides a huge subsidy to
coal-fired power-plants. Following the disastrous Kentucky coal sludge
spill in December 2008, EPA has belatedly undertaken an effort to
possibly regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste. The main industry
concern about regulating coal sludge ponds as hazardous is the
"stigmatizing effect" that would have on the growing coal ash market.

C2P2 program put EPA in an awkward position of promoting what it is
supposed to be regulating. Earlier this year, PEER revealed that EPA
officials routinely allow coal industry executives to edit agency
reports and fact sheets to downplay risks of coal ash. C2P2 product
endorsements have drawn criticism from EPA's Inspector General. Last
week, PEER filed an administrative complaint charging EPA with falsely
touting, via C2P2 publications, greenhouse gas reductions from coal
combustion waste reuse.

Last month, as it unveiled its final
proposals for regulating coal sludge, EPA quietly posted a notice that
C2P2 was temporarily suspended because it "was deemed appropriate to
foster dialogue on the proposal evenhandedly with all interested parties
through the public comment process." This week in an unusual move, EPA
went further by suddenly taking down all the C2P2 postings and leaving
only this statement:

"The Coal Combustion Products
Partnerships (C2P2) program Web pages have been removed while the
program is being re-evaluated."

"We suggest that
EPA use this opportunity to honestly review the entire range of
potential public health and environmental effects of injecting millions
of tons of unquestionably hazardous materials into the stream of
commerce," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that EPA has
used industry research as the underpinnings of the C2P2 findings.
"With so many unknowns, EPA should cease being promotional and try being
precautionary about coal ash."

If EPA is genuinely
reconsidering its previous posture that virtually all re-use of coal ash
was "beneficial" and thus beyond regulation, it would be a huge shift
with profound implications for the economics of coal-generated power.
"If coal plants had to properly dispose of all their combustion wastes
this power source would not be such a bargain anymore," Ruch added.

View the
now-blank C2P2 website

description of C2P2 from a surviving web fragment

PEER letter to EPA Administrator

Peruse complaint
of C2P2 false claims on GHG benefits of coal ash

Note pivotal
role of ash re-use in current regulatory debate

Look at
Inspector General probe of C2P2

Review how
industry used C2P2 to alter publications

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.