Carper: EPA Coal Ash will Pollute Waterways with Toxic Heavy Metals and Jeopardize Public Health

WASHINGTON. D.C. – U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule that would ease federal limits on toxic coal ash flushed from power plants and loosen federal limits that protect people from toxic metals in wastewater that can be discharged from the same power plants.


“I was born in Beckley, West Virginia, a coal mining town. My father once worked as a coal miner. It would be difficult for anyone to deny the coal industry’s role in the history of America and its place in the stories of so many American families, like mine. The coal industry fueled our nation’s industrial revolution, and while coal powered homes and businesses, it also empowered communities. It is also impossible to deny the coal industry’s legacy in polluting our nation’s airways and waterways, devastating the health of so many Americans, especially those working and living in coal communities.

“Burning coal creates a toxic residue called coal ash, which is filled with heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury. When coal-fired power plants improperly dispose of their coal ash, it can pollute drinking water sources with heavy metals that are known to cause cancer and other serious health ailments. Some of our nation’s worst environmental disasters in the past decade have involved coal ash, with billions of gallons of toxic coal ash spilling into our nation’s rivers and polluting our drinking water. These disasters could have been easily prevented if companies properly disposed of their coal ash.

“With this rule, EPA rolls back commonsense coal ash protections put in place by the Obama-Biden Administration that would prevent further coal ash spills and limit discharges to our waters. This decision by the Trump EPA essentially greenlights the release of more toxic pollution into the drinking water of communities located near coal-fired power plants. A rollback like this one won’t bring the coal industry back from the brink, but will leave Americans more at risk of putting a glass of water laced with lead, mercury and arsenic on the dinner table.

“It is not the job of EPA to protect the health of coal companies, it is the mission of EPA to protect human health and the environment. But over the last four years, we have seen this EPA repeatedly forsake its mission solely to prop up President Donald Trump’s impossible campaign promises to coal companies. This rollback is another example. It is short-sighted rule finalized for the sake of a campaign battle cry and to claim victory in a fabricated ‘war’ the coal industry could never truly win.”