Saturday, June 13, 2009

Obama wants coal ash storage sites to be secret - AP

My husband cut this little article out of our local newspaper, the Ontario, CA, Daily Bulletin, but since it's from the AP, it's all over the web, with various titles, like Communities at risk, but coal ash sites secret. Time and again, our administration, which is doing admirably on other fronts, shows how much it is in the hands of Big Coal. We have to stop him on this one. Obama is too smart to do this. I doubt he wants his daughters to grow up next to a coal ash site!
Officials cite security concerns, don’t alert those in risky areas.
By Dina Cappiello, Associated Press, Saturday, June 13, 2009

WASHINGTON —- The Obama administration has decided to keep secret the locations of nearly four dozen coal ash storage sites that pose a threat to people living nearby.

The Environmental Protection Agency classified the 44 sites as potential hazards to communities while investigating coal ash waste storage sites after a spill at a Tennessee power plant in December. The classification means the waste sites could cause death and significant property damage if an event such as a storm, a terrorist attack or a structural failure caused them to leak into surrounding communities. The sites have existed for years with little or no federal regulation.

The Army Corps of Engineers in a letter dated June 4 told the EPA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency that the federal government should not alert the public to the sites’ locations because it would compromise national security. The Corps said state officials or the owner of the site should communicate the risks to those nearby.

“Uncontrolled or unrestricted release (of the information) may pose a security risk to projects or communities by increasing its attractiveness as a potential target,” Steven L. Stockton, the Army Corps’ director of civil works, wrote in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in a press conference on Friday, questioned why coal ash storage ponds are not treated like other hazardous waste sites. For instance, the EPA readily discloses the location of Superfund hazardous waste sites and also annually reports pollution released by chemical facilities and other factories in neighborhoods.

EPA officials said Friday the National Dam Safety Review Board, a collection of federal agencies, state agencies and one private industry representative, was notifying local governments and states, some of which regulate the structures like dams.

Eric Halpin, special assistant for dam and levee safety for the Corps of Engineers, said that “we did not direct anyone to withhold or not release information.”

His agency releases that information to local governments “so they can, in turn, communicate it to the public,” Halpin said.

On Dec. 22, more than 5 million cubic yards of ash and sludge poured out of a storage pond after an earthen dike failed at a power plant near Kingston, Tenn. The grayish, toxic muck covered 300 acres and destroyed or damaged 40 homes.
It's not as if the local people don't know they're there. This article from the Knoxville TN News, reports of 11 sites just as dangerous as the one that spilled last Christmas.
Watchdog groups say coal ash sites unsafe. Report claims cancer risk upped for neighbors
By Michael Collins, Friday, May 8, 2009
WASHINGTON - Eleven coal ash storage sites in Tennessee are among dozens across the country that may pose a serious risk to public health, according to a new study based on government data that environmentalists say the Bush administration kept secret for years.

The data, compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and released Thursday by two watchdog groups, indicates that one out of every 50 Americans living near landfills or ponds used to store ash or sludge from coal-fired power plants has a high risk of getting cancer from drinking water contaminated with arsenic...
Let's get them cleaned up and stop adding to them. Let's stop coal!

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