The environmental advocacy group Food & Water Action threatened the Trump administration with legal action Thursday in response to a New York Times report that detailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to roll back an Obama-era regulation that aimed to protect waterways near coal-fired power plants from toxins.
“By now, nothing from this nefarious administration shocks us, but each new rollback of a common-sense rule meant to keep families healthy and safe enrages us more and more.”
—Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Action
“By now, nothing from this nefarious administration shocks us, but each new rollback of a common-sense rule meant to keep families healthy and safe enrages us more and more,” the organization’s executive director, Wenonah Hauter, said in a statement Thursday.
Hauter warned that “this latest rollback would lead directly to more water contamination, more birth defects, more childhood cancer, and more pain and suffering for American families—all for the sake of a dirty industry’s last grasp at profits.”
President Donald Trump, a close ally of the coal industry, “may be immune from public shaming or the motivations of simple common decency, but his administration is now on notice,” she added. “If this unconscionable handout to polluters is allowed to proceed, we will sue to stop it.”
The regulation, enacted by the Obama administration in 2015, tightened disposal rules for coal combustion residuals (CCR)—commonly called coal ash—that are created when coal is burned by power plants. Designed to safeguard nearby waterways from contaminants like arsenic, lead, and mercury, the regulation followed a series of environmental disasters involving coal ash, such as when a busted pipe polluted the Dan River in North Carolina in 2014.
Exposure to toxic metals in coal ash, as Physicians for Social Responsibility and Earthjustice noted in a 2010 report, “can cause several types of cancer, heart damage, lung disease, respiratory distress, kidney disease, reproductive problems, gastrointestinal illness, birth defects, impaired bone growth in children, nervous system impacts, cognitive deficits, developmental delays, and behavioral problems.”
Before the Obama-era rule took effect in November 2018, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in September 2017 that its implementation would be delayed until 2020 to provide “relief” to energy utilities and allow the agency to review the regulation—a move that critics denounced as “deeply disturbing.”
Since then, the EPA—which is now under the direction of former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler—has taken steps to weaken the 2015 regulation.
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