Just over a week ago, YUCCA's Policy-lead Ennedith Lopez and Mariel Nanasi from New Energy Economy joined the Climate Justice Alliance, and other supporters last week in Chicago to testify at the Environmental Protection Agency's public hearing on Coal Combustion Residual (CCR) rules, also known as "coal ash." Community representatives urged the closure of loopholes in the proposed regulations to prevent further harm to frontline communities affected by the long-standing reliance on coal energy.
Organizers highlighted various concerning issues, including coal ash contamination in waterways, deteriorating storage facilities near Lake Michigan, and the direct health impacts resulting from coal ash spills that could have been prevented. The detrimental consequences of coal's legacy extended across multiple states, from Indiana to Nevada, Georgia to Alabama, Michigan to New Mexico, and Arizona.
While the rulemaking process addressed certain loopholes following a lawsuit against the EPA, it fell short in several areas:
Exclusion of dried-up coal ash ponds and old ash landfills.
Lack of attention to coal ash ponds and landfills located in floodplains susceptible to climate change-induced groundwater contamination.
Failure to consider offsite construction sites, such as playgrounds, schools, and residential areas, where coal ash has been used as filler.
Inadequate enforcement mechanisms and penalties for ensuring compliance.
Exclusion of ALL toxic coal ash sites nationwide, regardless of creation time or location.
Although Chili Yazzie, our friend and longtime organizer from Shiprock, was unable to attend due to a flight cancelation, YUCCA's Ennedith Lopez was able to speak during the coal ash testimony in front of the EPA. She highlighted the environmental and health risks posed by legacy pollution from the San Juan Generating Station and the Four Corners Power Plant, including contamination of rivers, drinking water, and agricultural practices. Ennedith called for expanded regulation to remediate the coal ash deposits, robust monitoring and enforcement measures, and protection for environmental justice communities. She urged the EPA to prioritize public health and environmental protection by requiring comprehensive cleanup and closure of coal ash dumps. Click HERE to see Ennedith testify in front of the EPA representing New Mexican frontline communities: NEWS REPORTS COVERING THE HEARING Activists urge EPA to take harder stance against coal ash polluters - Courthouse News At rules hearing, U.S. EPA hears human toll of unaddressed coal ash pollution - Energy News Network The EPA was called upon to take proactive steps in protecting frontline communities downstream from legacy pollution and hold corporate polluters accountable. At the Four Corners Coal Plant, Arizona Public Service Company's discharge of 4.2 million gallons of wastewater daily into the No Name Wash, eventually reaching the San Juan River, remains a persistent threat. Inadequate management and disposal of the plant's 89 million tons of CCR have led to water contamination, endangering Indigenous people relying on the river for agriculture and drinking water. It is worth noting that 566 coal ash dump sites across 40 states are currently exempt from EPA regulations, representing nearly half of all coal ash sites in the United States. Meanwhile, as of December 2022, the world's largest coal companies recorded profits exceeding $97 billion. The San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico has provided electricity to the state's largest cities for 50 years. However, the plant and its associated mine have caused significant contamination and harm to nearby communities. To address this issue, a law called HB 142 was passed in the 2023 legislative session. This law commissions an independent assessment for the cleanup of the San Juan plant and mine, ensuring proper decommissioning and remediation with community consultation and regulatory oversight. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a draft rule to regulate coal ash waste. The proposed rule extends federal safeguards to many legacy ash ponds and landfills, imposes stricter cleanup requirements at active coal plants, and expedites compliance deadlines. However, some shortcomings remain, including the exclusion of certain sites from regulation and insufficient addressing of coal ash in floodplains and offsite construction locations. Public input is crucial during the EPA's 60-day comment period, allowing communities to demand comprehensive cleanup and protection for the affected area. The demand is for these companies not to weaken federal regulations while frontline communities continue to suffer the health risks and consequences of coal industry pollution. Everyone is encouraged to add their voice by submitting their own comments on the matter. The EPA is holding a 60-day public comment period. From now until July 17th, this is our collective moment to demand that ALL coal ash dumps are cleaned up and ensure every community that has borne the brunt of the coal-powered energy we have benefited from for decades is protected under federal rule.