According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency documents released recently by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), EPA publications and reports about uses and dangers of coal combustion waste have for years been edited by coal ash industry representatives. Based on the EPA documents, PEER concludes that the coal ash industry watered down official reports, brochures and fact-sheets to remove references to potential dangers and play up “environmental benefits” of a wide range of applications for coal combustion wastes. The EPA is currently deciding whether to classify these materials as hazardous wastes following the disastrous December 2008 coal ash spill in Tennessee.

PEER asserts that during the Bush administration, the EPA entered into a formal partnership with the coal industry, most prominently, the American Coal Ash Association, to promote coal combustion wastes for industrial, agricultural and consumer product uses.  This effort has helped grow a multi-billion dollar market which the industry worries would be crimped by a hazardous waste designation.

These documents obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act purportedly show how this partnership gave the coal ash industry a chance to change a variety of EPA draft publications and presentations, including:

  • Removal of “cautionary language” about application of coal combustion wastes on agricultural lands in an EPA brochure to be replaced with “exclamation point! language” “re-affirming the environmental benefits…that reinforces the idea that FGD [flue gas desulfurization] gypsum is a good thing” in the word of an American Coal Ash Association representative;
  • A draft of EPA’s 2007 Report to Congress caused industry to lobby for insertion of language about the need for “industry and EPA [to] work together” to weaken or block “state regulations [that] are hindering progress” for greater use of the coal combustion wastes; and
  • EPA fact-sheets and PowerPoint presentations were altered at industry urging to delete significant references to certain potential “high risk” uses of coal combustion wastes.

PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, who examined thousands of industry-EPA communications, stated “For most of the past decade, it appears that every EPA publication on the subject was ghostwritten by the American Coal Ash Association.” He further added that “EPA is supposed to be an objective regulatory agency dedicated to protecting the public instead of protecting a gigantic subsidy for a powerful industry.”

Source: Corporate Crime Reporter

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