Legal Actions around Coal Ash


In the absence of federal regulations and comprehensive state programs, there are several ways in which environmental groups and private citizens are working to hold utility companies accountable for their coal ash pollution. Here is a description of some current lawsuits that affect the Southeast.

Federal Cases

Community groups including SACE and Appalachian Voices have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to complete its rulemaking process and finalize the proposed rulemaking on coal ash safeguards.

Earthjustice is representing the following groups in this lawsuit:

Appalachain Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Environmental Integrity Project, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Montana Environmental Information Center, Moapa Band of Paiutes, Prairie Rivers Network, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Sierra Club.

The lawsuit against EPA is based on the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which requires EPA to periodically review and revise its standards. Although EPA has acknowledged that revisions to coal ash related standards are needed, they have not revised them since 1981. The Plaintiffs in this case are arguing that by not revising coal ash standards in over 30 years, EPA is in violation of RCRA, which state that “each regulation promulgated under the Act shall be reviewed by the EPA Administrator and revised, where necessary, no less frequently than every three years.”


On January 29, 2014, after years of delay, EPA agreed to finalize first-ever U.S. coal ash regulations. View a timeline of coal ash events from the Kingston disaster to this settlement.

State Legal Battles

Alabama Legal Actions

Tennessee Legal Actions

North Carolina Legal Actions

South Carolina Legal Actions

Florida Legal Actions 

Coal Ash as a Civil Rights Issue

In 2008, after the Kingston coal ash disaster in Tennessee, Perry County, Alabama signed a contract to dispose of and contain the Kingston coal ash in landfills located in the county. Perry County is a low-income, predominately African-American community. A federal civil rights complaint was filed against the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for re-issuing the permit to Perry County Associates, LLC for constuction and operation of the Arrowhead Landfill located in Perry County. By re-issuing the permit for operation of the landfill, ADEM is allegedly adversely and disparately impacting African-American residents in the community by exposing them to toxic coal ash left over from the Kingston spill.

Arrowhead Landfill in Perry County, Alabama