Photo: Appalachian Voices
Under the administration of President Donald Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency is set to weaken an Obama-era rule meant to regulate coal ash and keep its heavy metal byproducts from contaminating US water supplies, according to a New York Times report.
This regulation was earlier rolled out by the Obama administration in response to a disaster in Kingston, Tennessee in 2008 that saw a coal plant rupture, leaking 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash that polluted rivers and devastated homes. This rule currently protects six million people living in surrounding areas, using this water, according to the EPA.
According to the American Coal Ash Association, nearly 130 million tons of coal ash was produced in 2014 alone, making it one of the largest types of industrial waste generated in the United States, contaminating drinking water and fisheries for millions.
The general counsel for environmental group Earthjustice, Lisa Evans called the E.P.A.’s plan “a huge step backward and incredibly dangerous.”
A byproduct of burning coal, coal ash consists of a toxic mix of cancerous neurotoxins and poisons like arsenic, mercury, lead radium and hexavalent chromium. This, environmental groups like Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice, have warned, is endangering the health of people living near power plants and coal ash storage sites, leading to birth defects like cancer and stunted brain development in children.
This move is just the latest action by EPA under Trump to promote the coal industry by pulling back protections for both environmental and health reasons put in place by his predecessor.