Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Environmentalists and industry supporters turn out for Louisville coal ash hearing

The Environmental Protection Agency's nationwide coal ash hearing tour came to Louisville, Ky., Tuesday where conversation was not contained to just the proposal on ash rules. The public hearing "drew several hundred people and was intended to help the agency decide between two options ... for managing the huge and expanding volume of fly ash, bottom ash and scrubber sludge produced by coal-fired power plants," James Bruggers of the Courier-Journal reports. Louisville could be considered the epicenter of the coal ash debate as Kentucky and Indiana rank first and second respectively in coal ash generated with those rankings reversed for the total number of coal ash ponds.

Environmentalists and coal industry supporters held competing rallies, and two Greenpeace activists rappelled down the side of the hosting Seelbach Hilton Hotel, unveiling a sign, right, urging EPA to "protect people, not polluters." The stricter of the two proposals would "label coal burning waste as hazardous and phase out ash ponds, rely in part on dry landfills with liners, require permits and allow inspections and enforcement by the EPA," Bruggers writes, while the other proposal, "seen as a better option generally by industry, would regulate the waste as non-hazardous." (Courier-Journal photo by Michael Hayman)

"While we support EPA’s objective of ensuring safe disposal of (coal-burning wastes), we urge EPA to avoid regulatory approaches that would impose significant and unnecessary costs with little environmental benefit," said John Voyles, vice president of transmission and generation services for E.On U.S., parent of Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities. The pro coal rally also featured messages in support of other facets of the industry, including mountaintop removal. With the tops blown off mountains, "we get to enjoy all the things that flatland residents get to enjoy," Democratic State Rep. Leslie Combs of Pikeville told the crowd, citing fishing in ponds and dove hunting as two examples.

The environmentalists' rally was headlined by Kentucky author Wendell Berry and Jim James, the lead singer of the band My Morning Jacket. "The EPA knows that coal ash is a poison," Berry said. "We ask it only to believe in it’s own findings on this issue, and do it’s duty." EPA spokeswoman Laura Gentile told Bruggers the agency had already received more than 100,000 comments from across the country, and it "was impossible to say how long it will take the agency to review the comments and make a decision." (Read more)

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