EPA guts protections against dirty coal ash waste

In the interest of “increased flexibility” for the states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a plan to roll back a rule against coal ash waste—a clear win for industry. The Obama-era protection tackled the messy leftovers of the coal-burning process by requiring increased inspections, monitoring, and safeguards, like liners in new waste pits. At the time, the rule was criticized by environmentalists for not going far enough, and it’s easy to see why: Every year, coal plants produce about 110 million tons of coal ash waste containing a toxic mix of mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and other heavy metals. Even with safeguards, the waste poses a threat to water supplies, wildlife, and the health of those who live near massive waste pits. Two major spills occurred in the last decade alone, and dozens of other cases of contamination have been reported. If EPA chief Scott Pruitt continues to prioritize “flexibility” for industry polluters over our health, you can bet there will be even more.

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