The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kate Hornyan (202) 265-7337

Ban Coal Ash From Federal Procurement

Huge Carbon Footprint Should Disqualify Combustion Wastes under Obama Order


An Executive Order directing federal agencies to reduce the carbon
footprint of their purchases should disqualify purchases of coal ash and
other coal combustion wastes, according to a filing today by Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). If federal
procurement rules are changed to bar coal combustion wastes, the coal
industry would lose access to a sizeable portion of construction market.

October 8, 2009, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13514,
entitled Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic
Performance. One of the directive's main purposes is to leverage the
federal government's significant purchasing power to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions. Significantly the order covers both direct greenhouse
gas emissions from the use of the finished product as well as indirect
emissions used to create the product in the first place.

power, which creates the ash and other combustion wastes, is a main
source of greenhouse gases in the nation. In response to a similar
petition filed last month by PEER, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency removed a center on its own website promoting the re-use of coal
ash on the grounds of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, among other
claims now "being re-evaluated" according to the disclaimer on now-blank
EPA web pages.

"If the federal government is truly going to
reduce its carbon footprint, banning coal ash is an unavoidable step,"
stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that EPA is now
deciding whether to classify coal ash as a hazardous waste. "Right now
our system has backward incentives, giving 'green' credit for using the
ultimate 'brown' product - coal ash."

Highly toxic coal
combustion wastes are today used an array of consumer, agricultural and
commercial products. Coal ash is also widely used in construction,
particularly cement, drywall and tiles. Current purchasing guidelines
mandate federal procurement of coal combustion fly ash cement and
concrete products since they are classified as recovered content or
recycled products. PEER advocates revising these procurement guidelines
because they now conflict with the Obama Executive Order.

year, the federal government directly purchases more than half a
trillion dollars in goods and services. Federal purchasing accounts for
between a quarter and a third (recent recovery spending has pushed up
the federal share) of the construction sector. Public construction
projects represent 25% of total construction uses of U.S. coal
combustion residuals.

The PEER comments are directed to the
White House Council on Environmental Quality as it prepares guidelines
for greenhouse gas accounting to implement the Obama order. A major
task before CEQ is how to account for indirect emissions of greenhouse
gases, the area where coal ash carries a huge liability.

policy provides a federal market subsidy to the greenhouse gas
intensive coal industry," added Ruch. "Reducing greenhouse gas
emissions requires that we recognize the full lifecycle costs of coal."

Read the PEER comments to CEQ

See the recent EPA retreat on promoting coal ash

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.