Crofton Resident Calls For Citizen Panel on Fly Ash ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Crofton Resident Calls For Citizen Panel on Fly Ash

(The following letter has been sent by Crofton resident Dick Lahn. The views expressed are soley those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this blog or its publisher)

While Fly Ash may be a difficult regulatory issue to resolve within the Obama Administration, an issue of passing concern nationally, though now well known, it is a real issue to us locally and one gaining traction as we approach elections this year.  We may not be able to influence the EPA process despite its new resolve to right actions on the Bay. Obvious is its disconnection of the fly ash pollution/health component in AA County from the others in addressing solutions in the Bay watershed.

However, it is within our power to take some immediate steps to benefit county residents -- A citizen panel needs to be established to provide a better communication between MD Department of the Environment and the community to ensure the clean-up is done effectively and to get issues addressed before they escalate, particularly when construction begins (was to happen as part of the MDE Consent Decree but has not); more perimeter test wells are needed with data collected for public view to establish extent of the plume -- current modeling studies estimate the real rather than based on real data; Constellation and MDE are to keep the public informed as required by the Consent Decree. Neither has done this.

Dick Lahn
Crofton, Maryland

For the January 19 editorial from The New York Times About Fly Ash, please continue:

The Coal Ash Case

Just more than a year ago, one billion gallons of toxic coal sludge broke loose from a containment pond belonging to the Tennessee Valley Authority, burying hundreds of acres of Roane County in eastern Tennessee and threatening local water supplies and air quality. The Environmental Protection Agency immediately promised new national standards governing the disposal of coal ash to replace a patchwork of uneven — and in many cases weak — state regulations.

The agency’s recommendations, which have not been made public, are now the focus of a huge dispute inside the Obama administration, with industry lobbying hard for changes that would essentially preserve the status quo. The dispute should be resolved in favor of the environment and public safety.
America’s power plants produce 130 million tons of coal ash a year, enough to fill a train of boxcars stretching from the District of Columbia to Australia. Some of this is usefully, safely and profitably recycled to make concrete and other construction materials. Much of it winds up in lightly regulated landfills, some as big as 1,500 acres, where toxic pollutants like arsenic and lead can leach into the water table.
One internal E.P.A. proposal suggested reclassifying coal ash as a hazardous material subject to federal regulation. It also recommended national standards requiring safe, sturdy disposal facilities. Industry counterattacked, arguing that the hazardous designation would ruin the recycling market and could trigger burdensome new investments. It also argued for continued state control, with the federal government providing “guidance.”
These arguments do not hold up. The recycling market will not disappear. Materials that are responsibly recycled are not, typically, designated as hazardous. The real problem is the 60 percent or so of the coal ash that winds up in porous landfills. Evidence suggests that tough but carefully tailored rules could encourage even more recycling, protecting the environment while yielding income to help pay for more secure landfills.
This debate is being conducted behind closed doors, mainly at the Office of Management and Budget, where industry usually takes its complaints and horror stories. A better course would be to let the E.P.A. draft a proposal, get it out in the open and offer it for comment from all sides. The Obama administration promised that transparency and good science would govern decisions like these.

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