Illinois lawmakers ask White House not to classify coal ash as hazardous

A group of Illinois lawmakers are asking the White House not to classify coal ash as a hazardous material because doing so would cripple their state’s economy. In a letter to the Office of Management and Budget, the bipartisan group of congressmen expressed concerns that reclassifying the byproduct from coal-firing plants would raise the cost of energy for Illinois consumers. It would also hamper local utilities’ ability to recycle the coal ash in products like cement, concrete and other building materials, a process that the group says generates thousands of jobs in Illinois.

Coal ash storage is currently under review by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), following the December 2008 Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) impoundment pond rupture that dumped more than a billion gallons of toxic sludge on to a neighboring east Tennessee community and the Emory River. Coal ash contains arsenic and carcinogenic heavy metals, which has raised concerns from environmental groups.

Coal ash is not currently regulated by the federal government, and environmental groups say that the lack of oversight has made storage plants lax, putting millions of people who live near those plants at risk. The EPA is expected to propose guidelines for coal ash storage in the next few months.

If the EPA reclassifies coal ash as a hazardous material, it would have a ripple effect that critics, including the group of Illinois lawmakers, say will crush an already weakened economy.

The Office of Management and Budget said in a statement that it has received the Illinois lawmakers’ comments and they “appreciate their input.” For now, however, the subject remains under review.

Source: Chicago Tribune