Tell EPA to Protect Communities from Toxic Coal Ash

OMB Watch is asking you to tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set strong public health and environmental standards for coal ash, a toxic waste resulting from coal combustion.

Coal ashOver the past few months, OMB Watch has told you about EPA’s efforts to regulate coal ash and the obstacles the agency has faced at the White House and with powerful industry interests. EPA proposed standards for coal ash regulation in June, but not before the White House convened dozens of meetings between EPA and industry representatives opposed to coal ash regulation. Those industries are pushing for weaker standards, calling on the EPA to put their profits ahead of your health and well-being.

Industry had its chance to comment – now it’s your turn.

EPA needs to hear from you that coal ash should be regulated as a hazardous waste to protect you and your family. The agency will hold seven public hearings across the country during the next five weeks. Citizens like you can sign up to voice concern about coal ash and urge EPA to set standards protective of public health and the environment. For information on times and locations of the hearings and to sign up for a guaranteed speaking spot, click here. You can also submit written comments to EPA until Nov. 19.


Coal ash is a dangerous byproduct of coal combustion and can contain arsenic, lead, chromium, and other heavy metals. Reports link exposure to the toxic components in coal ash to cancer and other health problems. The toxins in coal ash can leach from landfills and surface impoundments into rivers, lakes, or streams, risking contamination your drinking water. New calls for regulation of coal ash began in 2008 after an impoundment in Kingston, TN, failed, releasing 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash that buried a community.

In its June 21 notice, EPA proposed two options for regulating coal ash. The first option would designate coal ash as a hazardous waste, requiring special handling, transportation, disposal, and any potential reuse. The second would regulate coal ash in a way typically only used to control less toxic wastes such as household garbage – an option that would limit EPA's responsibility and authority over coal ash management.

The choice is clear: EPA must choose the first, stronger option to ensure that communities are protected. In addition to holding hearings, EPA is accepting written comments on its options until Nov. 19. The environmental group Earthjustice is asking citizens to tell EPA to choose the first option and to set tough standards protective of public health and the environment. Visit Earthjustice’s website at to file your comments with EPA.

Please take this opportunity to participate in the regulatory process and to make your voice heard.

Photo credit: Coal ash spill photo by Brian Stansberry, used under a Creative Commons license.

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