EPA's proposed rollback of col ash regualtions sparks enviromental concerns in Pennsylvania
February 09, 2020
Pittsburgh, P.A. (Newsdialy) - Former coal lobbyist for Murray Energy and current EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced another rollback of a key water safeguards in November 2019 -- a move that would allow the vast majority of coal plants across the country to dump their toxic industrial sludge into the drinking water of millions of Americans.
EPA’s own data shows that coal plants are the top source of industrial toxic water pollution in the country, which is known to contain mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, selenium, and dozens of other metals that are extremely harmful to human health and ecosystems even in very small quantities. The Environmental Working Group recently updated their database to show that Pittsburgh water tested positive for unhealthy levels of carcinogenic trihalomethanes and hexavalent chromium, along with other toxins that are associated with dumping from coal ash facilities and could have been reduced by the 2015 rule. Pittsburgh has multiple large coal-fired power plants in its watershed. Today, coal plants are responsible for almost one-third of all toxic water pollution in the United States’ waters.
The Cheswick power plant in Allegheny County is one coal plant that could be let off the hook by this regulation rollback. Cheswick discharges water pollution into the Allegheny River, upstream from drinking water intakes that serve about a quarter million people. It would have been required to reduce its discharges of arsenic, mercury, selenium, and other toxic and carcinogenic substances. But if the EPA finalizes this rule, those protections will be weakened, and loopholes mean Chewick may never have to follow them.
Last year, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection updated water pollution permits for most coal plants in the Commonwealth to include the Obama era protections. It could therefore choose to keep those protections in place in spite of the EPA rollback.
In response, Tom Schuster, Sierra Club’s Senior Campaign Representative for Pennsylvania said:
“Governor Wolf needs to step up and protect Pennsylvania’s drinking water as vigorously as Andrew Wheeler and Donald Trump protects polluters’ interest. The Trump EPA has proven once again that they will put the drinking water of millions of Americans at risk by allowing dirty coal plants to dump their industrial waste into our rivers, streams, and waterways -- all just to save wealthy coal executives a few dollars. This rollback is a travesty and a threat to the health of our communities. There is no reason why any parent should have to think twice about giving their child safe water from a faucet. That is why Governor Wolf must protect Pennsylvanians by maintaining the level of pollution protection currently in place in power plant water permits across the Commonwealth. ”