Originally posted at the Wonk Room.

Before Thursday’s Senate hearing on the devastating Tennessee coal plant billion-gallon ash spill, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) demolished the “clean coal” myth. Alexander told Knoxville’s WVLT-TV:

Coal is a dirty business.

Watch it:

Cleaning up the spill is estimated to take over $250 million and at least two years, although as yet Tennessee Valley Authority CEO Ed Kilgore told senators he does not have an actual plan for the clean up. After problems for decades, including two leaks since 2003, the TVA dismissed a $25 million plan to shore up the sludge pond’s retaining walls as too expensive. Yet Kilgore testified that there were no warning signs the dike could fail:

We had no reason to believe it wouldn’t hold this. I don’t know what caused this but I don’t think it’s something that betrays the public’s trust in that we were careless.

Due to industry resistance and compliant politicians in Washington, coal ash waste is not federally regulated. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) “plans to ask Lisa Jackson, Democratic President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee to head the EPA, about providing regulation of the ash during her confirmation hearing next week.”