Greens ask Obama to go big on coal ash

A coalition of environmental groups reminded President Obama Monday that they want him to set set strong standard for coal ash storage.

In a letter to the White House Monday, the groups asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set a number of standards to protect waterways and groundwater from the millions of tons of waste from coal burning.

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“The rule must close and clean up legacy dumps, provide the [EPA] with enforcement authority, establish clearly defined deadlines and transparent processes for cleanups, end all wet disposal, make publicly available ground and surface water monitoring data and inspections, protect the public from dangerous reuse of ash, and allow for full public participation in permitting processes,” the 120 groups said.

The green groups include the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the Waterkeeper Alliance, the Natural Resources Defense Council and various local organizations.

The EPA is under a court order to propose by Dec. 19 what would be the first federal rules regarding coal ash storage. One top issue is whether coal ash would be classified as hazardous, which would introduce a new level of protections for coal ash storage areas, which are often ponds next to waterways.

Coal ash contains substances such as lead, arsenic, mercury and chromium, and the green groups said it is the second largest industrial waste stream in the country. Some components of coal ash have a secondary market for applications like building materials and road treatments.

“Now is the time for your administration to stand up and protect the many citizens living in the shadows of these dangerous and contaminated sites,” the groups told Obama.

“We ask that you finalize strong federal protections this year for coal ash pollution to not only prevent the next big disaster, but to stop the slow poisoning of American communities.”