Coal / Coal Ash

Court upholds national safeguard for coal ash: Nation’s no. 2 toxic pollution threat

Ruling casts doubt on legality of EPA’s plan to weaken coal ash protections

WASHINGTON, D.C. — “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a decision today holding that the first-ever federal safeguards set by the Obama Administration for coal ash dumps do not sufficiently protect communities and the environment from pollution from that toxic waste.

The court’s decision today sided with public interest groups by concluding that the Obama-era rule failed to adequately protect against pollution from unlined and inadequately lined ash pits, many of which are already leaking dangerous pollution into rivers and streams. The Court ordered EPA to revise the rule to properly address the health and environmental threats from these dump sites.  The Court also agreed with public interest groups that EPA did not go far enough in regulating coal ash dumps, holding that EPA improperly exempted coal ash ponds at closed coal-fired power plants from regulation.Rejecting industry challenges to the rule, the Court further held that EPA acted within its authority to regulate coal ash ponds no longer actively receiving waste and located at operating plants.

‘Today’s ruling is a victory for the people who are exposed to toxic waste from coal-fired power plants,’ said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit. ‘The court’s decision limits the Trump Administration’s ability to further roll back these vital health protections by recognizing the danger that these dumps already pose.’

The Court’s decision follows the Trump EPA’s publication this July of revisions that weaken the rule promulgated by the Obama administration. The court decision casts serious doubt on the legality of those revisions, which, among other things, extend the deadline to close leaking unlined coal ash ponds.  A defeat for the Trump Administration on those revisions would be par for the course: courts have repeatedly struck down the Administration’s attempts to eviscerate environmental protections.

— Lisa Evans, press release, Earthjustice

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