Protecting coal ash

Coal ash, the residue left by coal-powered power plants, is some nasty stuff. Thank God we have ALEC trying to prevent the feds from regulating it:

At least 49 coal-fired power plants have acknowledged that one or more of their ash ponds or landfills have exceeded either Safe Drinking Water Act “Maximum Contaminant Limits” or state groundwater protection standards. The information was provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to an information collection request, and obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The data indicates that multiple contaminants at 116 coal ash disposal units at the 49 plants exceed federal or state standards, including arsenic (a potent carcinogen) reported at no fewer than 22 sites; manganese (a metal that can damage the nervous system in high concentrations) at 22; boron (a pollutant that can cause damage to the
stomach, intestines, liver, kidney, and brain when ingested in large amounts) at 12; selenium (a toxic pollutant that causes adverse health effects at high exposures) at 13; and cadmium (a toxic pollutant that can damage the kidneys, lungs, and bones) at 10.

The problem is, there’s no uniform standard for measuring or reporting these contaminants. The EPA is trying to regulate coal ash, but our old friends at ALEC are trying to prevent any attempt to regulate it.

That’s where Rep. David McKinley (WV-1) comes in. He’s a member of the Tea Party caucus, the chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party, and also sits on the House Energy and Commerce committee.

McKinley, who’s running against Democrat Sue Thorn, has raised $1.5 million so far in his reelection campaign, the largest single category of contributions come from mining interests. McKinley introduced a bill to that prevents the federal government from regulating coal ash – and coincidentally, I’m sure, the bill also mirrors a coal ash resolution passed by ALEC.

He claims the responsible thing is to recycle the ash as building materials. (Of course! What could possibly go wrong?)

The Department of Homeland Security under Bush refused to release the dump locations, supposedly because an enemy could use the information to contaminate a large area. (Or they were afraid the locals would freak out after a 2008 Tennessee coal ash spill turned into a massive environmental disaster.)

Anyway, if you live in McKinley’s district, Sue Thorn looks like a much better alternative – and certainly better for your health.