On September 27, after months of planning by SACE and our partners, we hosted the first ever Southeast Coal Ash Summit. This event brought over 70 concerned citizens, environmental and public health advocates, and elected officials from across the Southeast and beyond to learn more about this issue and how attendees can forward their work to rid our region of this toxic threat. The Summit also provided an opportunity for those fighting coal ash in their communities to meet others working on the same issue and see that they are part of a larger movement.
The SACE team opened the Summit by showcasing the new and improved SoutheastCoalAsh.org website. Updated information and enhanced functionality make this resource easier than ever to navigate and use.
We recently added several new pages such as dedicated state pages and a wildlife impacts page, redesigned the homepage to be more user-friendly and draw attention to our take action page. The website is now updated with the latest EPA data on coal ash impoundment conditions and hazard ratings and by creating unique web addresses for all power plant details pages (Like this one for Buck Power Station in North Carolina: http://www.southeastcoalash.org/?page_id=2664&rec=51), visitors can easily share information from the website. We even created a widget allowing you to feature Southeastcoalash.org on your website!
The first day’s agenda focused on informational presentations detailing the latest scientific research on wildlife, environmental and health impacts of coal ash pollution, updates on Southeastern coal ash lawsuits, an overview of the current regulatory environment and a panel showcasing the important work Waterkeepers are doing at the front lines of the coal ash fight. Attendees heard from national leaders in each of these areas and two state legislators on their work on coal ash and how we can better engage legislators. Speaking passionately and candidly, Representative Oliver implored those in the room to make sure to always ask a legislator for something; if you go to them and just talk at them and don’t ask for anything, you’re wasting their time. Representative Harrison has sought to protect communities from the toxic threat of coal ash at the state level and has testified before Congress advocating for federal regulations of the waste. In 2013, Representative Oliver introduce House Bill 136 to require consistent regulation and monitoring of coal ash impoundments across Georgia.
The second day of the Summit focused more on advocacy and strategy around specific coal ash issues. The day started bright and early with a state partners breakfast where attendees gathered by state to discuss priorities and opportunities for action in their communities.
Waterkeeper Alliance staff provided a detailed training on how to prepare for and conduct water testing for coal ash pollution while Stephanie Schweickert conducted a citizen advocacy coaching session. The Summit concluded with coal ash stories where we got to hear of the struggles of those directly impacted by coal ash pollution and its effects and a panel focused on being a better advocate and taking our advocacy work to the next level by effectively working with media, communities, and decision makers.
We want to thank everyone who helped make this Summit a huge success—we are extremely grateful to the wonderful folks at Southface for hosting us, all of the excellent speakers, and everyone who was a part of the Summit.