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Federal Court Orders EPA to Move Forward on Coal Ash Regulations

Judge to offer more details in the next 30 days but takes first step towards federal enforceable safeguards

WASHINGTON - A federal judge agreed with environmental and public health groups that the Environmental Protection Agency needs to set federal regulations for the safe and proper disposal of toxic coal ash. Read the judge’s order

The groups filed the lawsuit in April 2012 challenging the EPA’s lack of federal regulations for America’s second largest industrial waste stream.

The order of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia offered little details about the timing or substance of the EPA’s rulemaking but said it will issue a Memorandum Opinion within the next 30 days with more specifics. For now, the decision marks the first step towards federally enforceable safeguards, monitoring, and protections against coal ash. In its order, the court did deny one of the environmentalists claims regarding testing procedures for coal ash contamination, but more details are needed before the groups are fully able to understand the implications.

Coal ash has already contaminated more than 200 rivers, lakes, streams and aquifers with toxic pollutants like arsenic, lead, selenium and mercury. In 2008, a spill at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, Tennessee, dumped one billion gallons of coal ash over 300 acres, destroying homes and poisoning rivers. That spill led to the EPA proposing in May 2010 the first federal regulations for coal ash disposal. The agency never finalized that rulemaking, leaving open the opportunity for the power generating industry and some members of Congress to push for legislation that would prevent the EPA from ever setting federal regulations.


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The following statement is from the groups that filed the lawsuit: Appalachian Voices (NC); Chesapeake Climate Action Network (MD); Environmental Integrity Project (D.C.); Earthjustice (DC); French Broad Riverkeeper (NC); Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KY); Moapa Band of Paiutes (NV); Montana Environmental Information Center (MT); Prairie Rivers Network (IL); Sierra Club (D.C.); and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (eight southeast states):

“The impacts of coal ash pollution are being felt across the country. Our groups represent millions of Americans who want clean water, clean air and healthy living. We turned to the courts to force the EPA to set long overdue protections from this toxic menace. This decision marks the first step towards federally enforceable safeguards from coal ash. For decades, coal ash has been dumped into unlined and unmonitored pits, poisoning water supplies and the communities that rely on them. No one should have to live in fear of the coal ash dump in their backyard, and we hope the EPA will finally adopt regulations that protect all nearby communities.”

Jared Saylor, Earthjustice, (202) 236-5855
Sean Sarah, Sierra Club, (202) 548-4589
Jennifer Duggan, Environmental Integrity Project, (802) 225-6774
Sandra Diaz, Appalachian Voices, (828) 262-1500
Diana Dascalu-Joffe, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, (703) 772-2472
Hartwell Carson, French Broad Riverkeeper, (828) 258-8737
Mary Love, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, (502) 541-7434
William Anderson, Moapa Band of Paiutes (702) 865-2787
Anne Hedges, Montana Environmental Information Center, (406) 443-2520
Traci Barkley, Prairie Rivers Network, (217) 621-3013
Ulla Reeves, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, (828) 713-7486


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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.

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