At a time when EPA regulations and safeguards are under attack by House Republicans, the next to We Energies’ Oak Creek Power Plant last Monday illustrates the need for EPA oversight and regulations. The collapse of the power plant caused toxic coal ash to spill into Lake Michigan, which provides drinking water for 10 million Americans. The spill brought back memories of the failure at the Kingston Fossil Coal Plant in Tennessee in 2008, which released 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash into rivers and streams nearby and cost over $1.2 billion to clean up.
Despite pressing for limited government spending and balanced budgets, Republicans have been attacking EPA regulations that would actually prevent frivolous spending of tax-payer dollars on spill cleanups through stricter rules for coal ash storage and management. On October 14, the House passed H.R. 2273, which seriously limited the EPA’s ability to perform its mandates to protect public health and eliminated regulations for the disposal and management of coal ash, endangering the health and safety of thousands of communities. The Obama administration opposed the bill saying that it was “insufficient to address the risks associated with coal ash disposal and management.”
The bill introduced into the Senate (S.1751) on October 20 is almost identical to the House measure. The bill continues to shield utilities from managing their coal ash dumps responsibly, eliminates public participation in the permitting and authorization processes, and prevents enforcement of safeguards. The collapse of the bluff in Wisconsin should be a red flag to remind the Senate to say no to the measure and protect American’s health and taxpayer dollars.