Congressman Cohen’s Ensuring the Safe Disposal of Coal Ash Act Considered by Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change

April 15, 2021
Press Release
Will be incorporated in CLEAN Future Act

WASHINGTON – The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment and Climate Change reviewed Congressman Steve Cohen’s Ensuring the Safe Disposal of Coal Ash Act, and the measure is expected to be made part of the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act.

Subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko and other members of the committee endorsed the measure, as did legislative hearing witness Adrienne Hollis, Senior Climate Justice and Health Scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

After the legislative hearing, Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

“I’m pleased my bill was taken up during today’s hearing focused on environmental justice and the protection of our frontline communities. My bill, the Ensuring the Safe Disposal of Coal Ash Act, aims to rectify some of the 2015 CCR rule’s deficiencies by amending the Solid Waste Disposal Act to require stronger protections for communities, public health, and groundwater from unsafe coal ash disposal. Specifically, it would require assurances for coal ash residuals units sufficient to cover all post-use care and correction actions, prohibit use of unlined impoundments for coal ash, limit fugitive dust emissions from impoundments and require permit limits and safety standards. My bill also increases monitoring and protection for nearby groundwater sources.

“I first became aware of the dangers of coal ash when, on December 22, 2008, a coal ash pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Kingston power plant breached, spilling 1.2 billion gallons of coal ash and its contaminants – including arsenic, selenium, and mercury – into two rivers. This was the largest coal ash spill in our nation’s history. Now, in 2021, hundreds of people are still dealing with the aftermath of that environmental disaster.

“We have also dealt with the effects of coal ash contamination in my own district in Memphis, Tennessee. In March 2019, a report titled “Coal’s Poisonous Legacy: Groundwater Contaminated by Coal Ash Across the U.S.” was released that revealed that at least 91 percent of the coal plants currently regulated by the federal Coal Ash Rule (242 of 265 plants in 39 states) have contaminated groundwater with high levels of toxic pollutants above federal health standards. The Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis, Tennessee, was listed as the sixth most contaminated site in the country.

“Electric utilities have been allowed to get away with cheap and egregious disposal methods at the expense of public health for far too long. In some parts of this country, people justify the status quo because they have not seen the full dangers of unregulated coal ash. In Tennessee, we cannot ignore these consequences and cannot tolerate anything less than stringent requirements on the cleanup of coal ash that will protect the American people, who deserve to breathe air and drink water free of toxic pollutants.

“I appreciate the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee’s consideration of my bill and look forward to working with colleagues of the Energy and Commerce Committee to urge its passage as part of the CLEAN Future Act.”