Congressman Cohen Discusses Toxic Coal Ash at Natural Resources Subcommittee Hearing

June 30, 2021
Press Release
Waste product often dumped in communities of the least powerful

MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today questioned expert witnesses at a Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on “Toxic Coal Ash: Adverse Health Effects from the Puerto Rico Plant and Options for Plant Closure.”

In April, Congressman Cohen introduced the Ensuring the Safe Disposal of Coal Ash Act, which would strengthen protections against coal ash contamination by rectifying deficiencies in the 2015 Coal Ash Rule weakened by the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In his questioning of witnesses Congressman Cohen said in part:

“Coal ash is a toxic by-product of coal plants filled with dangerous heavy metals and can become lodged in people’s lungs and cause asthma, lung disease or cancer…What’s going on (with coal ash) in Puerto Rico is awful…It’s also going on in Memphis, Tennessee, and up in East Tennessee where TVA has used carbon-filled fuel plants to provide energy and it has coal ash deposits in Memphis that they’re going to try to remove over a 10-year period. They are, of course, in an African American community where all the toxic dumps and waste go in our country. They go to the least powerful who can make the least resistance and have historically had lesser voices. This is bad.”

See Congressman Cohen’s entire exchange with witnesses here.

Witnesses at today’s hearing were:

  • Mr. Alberto Colon, Comunidad Guayamesa Unida por tu Salud Guayama, Puerto Rico;
  • Mr. David K. Owens, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority;
  • Dr. Gerson Jimenez, Doctor of Internal Medicine, Guayama, Puerto Rico;
  • Mr. Alex Epstein, President, Center for Industrial Progress;
  • Ms. Ruth Santiago, Community and Environmental Attorney, Salinas, Puerto Rico.