Coal Ash Victims Get A Hearing
We’ve been wondering how "clean" clean coal really is for a while now at TWI. Today a House subcommittee took up the case too, holding a hearing on how the federal government should deal with the potential health and environmental risks associated with clean coal’s byproducts.
Clean coal’s waste is a source of anger and worry in coal country, which I discovered when looking into the situation in eastern Pennsylvania. There, residents want to know whether there could be a link between cancer clusters and coal ash, or coal combustion wastes.
Today’s hearing included residents from Gambrills, Maryland which, I’ve reported, is trying to deal with its own coal ash problem. For 13 years, Constellation Energy dumped coal combustion waste into a sand-and-gravel pit in the low-income area of Anne Arundel County. Nearly three dozen wells were found to be contaminated by coal ash toxins at three times the safe level for drinking.
Much of the hearing, held by the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, focused on whether the federal government needs to be involved in regulating coal ash at all.
David Goss, executive director of the American Coal Ash Association, which deals with the management of coal combustion wastes, testified that federal regulations are unnecessary because states are doing a good enough job. Goss said at today’s hearing that the Gambrills case is a good example of states stepping in when a problem is discovered. But, as
Gambrills residents disagreed. Norman Harvey pointed out in his testimony, that it took the state of Maryland over a decade to admit there was a problem, despite local complaints. Harvey told the subcommittee that even now, the Maryland Dept. of Environment has taken no actions to fix the water contamination or to work with the state health department to address the threats associated with years of exposure.
Environmental attorney Lisa Evans of EarthJustice supported the Gambrill residents, saying most states don’t even monitor dump sites for contamination and the states that do have inadequate regulations.
It looks like we’ll keep watching this issue.