Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Partner Groups Release Report Detailing Failings of Tennessee’s Coal Ash Regulations
Inadequate state regulations drive need for EPA’s federal Subtitle C special-waste designation as best option to protect human health and the environment Knoxville, Tenn. (October 26, 2010) – A coalition of environmental and public health groups released a report today detailing the shortcomings of Tennessee’s coal ash regulations. This comes in advance of a crucial public hearing in Knoxville on October 27, where EPA will take public comment on proposed new rules to regulate coal ash,
The report, authored by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, finds that “[d]espite the inherent dangers of coal ash, and despite being home to the largest coal ash disaster in history, two high-hazard coal ash impoundments, and five documented cases of water contamination from ash storage, Tennessee still does not have a regulatory system to protect individuals and the environment from the unique dangers of coal ash.”
“Before the Kingston disaster, coal ash was a sleeping, toxic giant. This epic event was the catalyst for much needed refocusing on just how dangerous this coal waste is,” says Dr. Stephen Smith, Executive Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Dr. Smith continues, “It is inexcusable for any state, Tennessee in particular, to operate without proactive and enforceable coal ash laws – it is high time that EPA act in the best interest of protecting citizens and our natural resources.”
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy will hold a media call at 1:00 pm EST, today, Tuesday October 26 to announce the release of the new report “The State of Coal Ash Regulation in Tennessee” and to answer questions on the report. Media can join the telepress conference by dialing 605-477-2100 and using access code 977834#
The report is based on a detailed review of Tennessee’s statues, regulations and permits as well as communications with regulators and experts on Tennessee’s solid waste and water quality laws. The report also includes a compilation of key findings from previous research on damage cases conducted by the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice and the Sierra Club.
Key findings of this report include:
- Tennessee has no laws designed specifically to address the dangers of coal ash.
- When ash is stored in a wet impoundment, like Kingston, the wastewater discharges are regulated. But structural stability, groundwater, siting, corrective action, closure and post-closure care are left unregulated.
- The Tennessee Safe Dams Act does not apply to surface impoundments.
- Solid waste regulations are not applied to surface impoundments
- Landfills can operate under weak “permits-by-rule” if they merely state that the landfill will ultimately be used for something other than ash storage alone. No proof or assurance of this intent is required.
- The Commissioner of the Department of Environment and Conservation can waive all landfill regulations on a permit-by-permit basis.
- Surface or groundwater contamination have been found in and around TVA impoundments at the Johnsonville, Cumberland, Gallatin and John Sevier coal plants. Contaminants include arsenic, aluminum, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chloride, iron, lead, manganese and nickel.
- TVA’s Bull Run and Cumberland plants are both categorized by EPA as “high hazard” ponds. This rating means that there will probably be a loss of human life if the impoundments have a structural failure like the one at Kingston.
EPA issued proposed rules in July 2010 to resolve these problems by regulating coal ash at the federal level. EPA proposed two regulatory options, and this report concludes that federal oversight is the best means of regulating Tennessee’s hazardous coal ash ponds. The more restrictive of these two options, known as Subtitle C, will allow federal oversight, permitting and enforcement, and is therefore the best option for protecting Tennesseans and our environment.
“It’s interesting how society seems to just now be figuring out how costly burning coal is to our communities. Acid rain and lung disease indicated this long ago, but the effect of the massive coal ash spill and the regulatory changes we now need underscore the true cost of burning coal” says John McFadden, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Tennessee Environmental Council.
The full report, with an executive summary, is available at [email protected] EPA is holding a public hearing in Knoxville, Tenn,, on October 27, 2010 at the Knoxville Marriott, 500 Hill Ave. SE, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST. The public is encouraged to attend.
Other organizations endorsing this report include:
The Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club, Tennessee Environmental Council, Western North Carolina Alliance, Greenpeace USA, French Broad Riverkeeper, Watauga Watershed Alliance, United Mountain Defense, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice.