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SoutheastCoalAsh.org Launches Create-Your-Own Coal Ash Report Interactive Feature

CoalAshReport1Asheville, N.C. – Today www.SoutheastCoalAsh.org and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) unveiled a new tool to help concerned citizens, activists, policymakers, and reporters better understand the potential hazards of toxic coal ash waste throughout our region.

The Create-Your-Own Coal Ash Report feature on our interactive website, www.SoutheastCoalAsh.org, analyzes detailed data from more than 450 coal ash storage ponds (impoundments) across the region to generate custom reports based on the coal plants, states, and/or utilities that users select. You can visit the report portal page to generate a custom report at http://www.CoalAshReport.org.

Our 9-state region is extremely vulnerable to pollution and catastrophic dam failures from coal ash impoundments because it is home to 40% of the nation’s coal ash impoundments and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates a disproportionate number of those as posing serious threats to nearby communities and infrastructure. The report comes as EPA faces a court-ordered December 19 deadline to finalize rules for coal ash, which is currently less regulated than household garbage despite its toxic load of lead, arsenic, and hexavalent chromium.

“We are still waiting on federal rules to address this completely unregulated waste stream which continues to pose serious threats to our communities and waterways,” says Ulla Reeves, High Risk Energy Program Director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Increasing public understanding, awareness, and access to information about coal ash issues in our backyards is one of the ways we will eventually clean up these dangerous dumpsites and prevent the next devastating coal ash spill.”

These custom reports offer another way for the public to learn more and share information about dangerous coal ash impoundments that threaten water quality and public health. This information was made publicly available for the first time on the www.SoutheastCoalAsh.org website in December 2012 and both the website and this new report-generating tool are regularly updated with the latest impoundment-specific coal ash data.

NC Lawmakers Come Up Short on Coal Ash

Bryant and Sherry Gobble live next door to one of Duke Energy's coal ash impoundment at the Buck Steam Station in Dukeville, NC. Duke and North Carolina environmental regulators have known since 2011 that the dumpsite has been polluting groundwater with toxic substances, but have taken no action to stop pollution or warn neighbors of the danger. Photo source: AP

Bryant and Sherry Gobble live next door to one of Duke Energy’s coal ash impoundment at the Buck Steam Station in Dukeville, NC. Duke and North Carolina environmental regulators have known since 2011 that the dumpsite has been polluting groundwater with toxic substances, but have taken no action to stop pollution or warn neighbors of the danger. Photo source: AP

In the days and weeks after the Dan River disaster, North Carolina legislators made bold promises to protect the public from dangerous and polluting coal ash sites. Since May there’s been several stops and starts on coal ash legislation, and for a time it looked like the General Assembly would fail to pass any legislation.

Instead, the General Assembly passed a bill last night that falls far short of the protections North Carolinians desperately need. In the early days of this legislative session, we were hopeful that North Carolina lawmakers were going to put forth a strong bill to force Duke Energy to clean up all of its polluting sites.

Unfortunately, the bill they passed actually undermines current groundwater protection laws, fails to clean up 10 of North Carolina’s dangerous and polluting coal ash impoundments and lets Duke off the hook for the harm their dumpsites are causing communities and waterways statewide. As a News & Observer recent Editorial aptly stated, Senate Bill 729 “proposes to solve the coal ash problem by declaring it not a problem. Or, at least not an urgent problem.”

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Kingston Recovery Continues: TVA Pays $27.8 Million to Coal Ash Spill Victims

Chris Copeland standing on the coal ash that destroyed his home near TVA's Kingston Fossil Plant.

Chris Copeland standing on the coal ash that destroyed his home near TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant.

Last week the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) finally agreed to pay $27.8 million to more than 800 property owners who suffered damage from the massive 2008 Kingston coal ash spill. The spill is one the largest of it’s kind in US history, and spread over one billion gallons of toxic coal ash over 300 acres of aquatic ecosystems, farmlands and neighborhoods. TVA previously purchased over 180 properties in the spill area for approximately $147 million, and while this is likely to be the last wave of settlements, the impacts of this disaster will continue to be felt for decades to come.

We applaud TVA for finally compensating those directly impacted by the spill, while recognizing that the surrounding community, rivers and environment will never be the same and that residents in Perry County, AL who received much of the Kingston ash waste have yet to be compensated for their pollution burdens from this disaster.

As long as our utilities continue burning coal without proper regulations and oversight for their coal ash dumpsites, communities nationwide remain at risk from devastating coal ash spills and pollution problems.

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Lynn Ringenberg, M.D.: Coal Ash Pollution Needs Tighter Regulation

This post originally appeared in the South Florida Sun Sentinel on August 5, 2014. You can access the original article here

Coal ash impoundments at Tampa Electric Company's Big Bend Power station are unlined and right on Tampa Bay--a typical example of Florida's coal ash situation.

Coal ash impoundments at Tampa Electric Company’s Big Bend Power station are unlined and right next to Tampa Bay and are a typical example of Florida’s coal ash dumpsites.

By Lynn Ringenberg, MD

A national epidemic has come to Florida. It is a silent threat, growing every day. Pollution contaminates our waters, poisons our fish and wildlife and increases our risk of cancer and other diseases.

The culprit is coal ash, and here in Florida we generate more than six million tons of this toxic waste every year, making our state seventh in the nation for coal ash generation. Even though it’s full of dangerous contaminants, coal ash is even less regulated than our household garbage.

In February, a coal ash pond in North Carolina ruptured, sending 140,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River along the Virginia border. In 2008, a coal ash pond in Tennessee burst, sending more than one billion gallons of coal ash into the Clinch and Emory Rivers and damaging 40 nearby homes. While the coal ash problem in Florida isn’t as obvious, it is still just as dangerous.

Coal ash is the waste left over when coal is burned for electricity. In 2007, power plants nationwide generated 140 million tons of this waste — enough to fill a line of train cars stretching from the North Pole to the South Pole. Many power plants simply dump their coal ash into unlined and unmonitored pits. There are no federal regulations ensuring safe disposal and handling of this waste, so coal ash can often contaminate nearby lakes, rivers, streams and drinking water aquifers with toxic pollutants. Across the country, coal ash has contaminated water at more than 200 sites.

Florida’s most recent instance of contamination is along the Apalachicola River. On June 5, environmental groups sued Gulf Power Company for illegally discharging coal ash into the river at its Scholz Electric Generating Plant, a violation of the Clean Water Act. Water tests near the coal ash dumps found that arsenic levels coming out of the unlined pits were 300 times higher than federal safety standards. High levels of cadmium, chromium — well known carcinogens — as well as lead, selenium and mercury were also found.

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Leaving Coal Ash In Place Is Not A Cleanup Plan

With legislature’s failure to pass strong coal ash bill, DENR and Duke must fulfill cleanup obligation

Duke Energy's illegal pumping of coal ash wastewater into the Cape Fear River is just one example of their negligence and lack of consideration for public health and the environment.

Duke Energy’s illegal pumping of coal ash wastewater into the Cape Fear River is just one example of their negligence and lack of consideration for public health and the environment.

August 1, 2014 –In spite of 11th hour negotiations Thursday night, the North Carolina House and Senate failed to come to agreement on their weak, incomplete coal ash management bills, putting the impetus back on Duke Energy and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to remove coal ash from unlined pits near waterways.

The Senate proposed an inadequate bill back in June; the House significantly weakened that proposal; and ultimately, the conference committee found itself at a stalemate to address North Carolina’s coal ash problem.

“This is a multi-layered failure of leadership. Both chambers failed to offer the comprehensive cleanup plan they promised at the outset of session,” said Donna Lisenby, global coal campaign coordinator for Waterkeeper Alliance. “Then they failed to take any action at all. We hope that lawmakers’ return in November will be a reboot of priorities. All North Carolina communities need protection from coal ash.”

Aging, unlined coal ash lagoons are leaching arsenic, chromium, mercury, lead, cadmium, boron, and other pollutants into rivers, streams and groundwater at every single Duke Energy facility in this state. Under public pressure, Duke Energy has already publicly volunteered to move ash from the Dan River, Riverbend, Sutton and Asheville facilities into lined landfills away from waterways. In the absence of clear directives from the legislature, they must keep that promise.

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