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Sue Sturgis' Posts

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Industry wraps coal ash regulation fight in the mantle of civil rights

Charles Steele Jr.Standing out among the more than 250 people who testified at the recent Environmental Protection Agency hearing on proposed coal ash regulations in Charlotte, N.C. was one speaker with an especially distinguished background: Charles Steele Jr., the first African-American member of the Tuscaloosa City Council and a former Democratic state senator from Alabama who went on to lead the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the legendary civil rights organization whose first president was Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Steele left SCLC last year and now runs a consulting firm in Atlanta. Given Steele's work on behalf of civil rights, …

Read more: Politics

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Big Oil rallies to save Big Oil

A nationwide series of rallies kicked off in Texas this week urging Congress to block legislation proposed in the wake of the BP oil disaster that would regulate the oil and gas industry more strictly and eliminate tax breaks. The organizer of the Rally for Jobs events? The American Petroleum Institute (API), with help from other industry groups including the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association and the International Association of Drilling Contractors. Rallies held yesterday in Houston, Port Arthur and Corpus Christi drew an estimated 5,500 people, many of them employees from Texas-based oil …

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Hearings begin on federal coal ash rules as evidence of damages mounts

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is holding the first in a series of seven official public hearings today to collect comments on a proposal to federally regulate coal ash. Today's hearing will take place at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va. from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and is expected to draw attendees from across the country. The event comes amid growing evidence of utilities' failure under the current state-led regulatory system to protect communities from the serious health hazards of coal ash. A report released last week by environmental advocacy groups documented 39 additional sites in 21 …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Obama administration sued over secrecy surrounding nuclear power subsidies

After President Obama announced back in February that his administration would provide $8.3 billion in taxpayer-financed loan guarantees to the Southern Company to build two new nuclear reactors at its Plant Vogtle in Georgia, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy sought details about the deal under the Freedom of Information Act. The watchdog group submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Energy on March 25, asking for details on the loan application, the offer the government made to the company, and any correspondence between the parties. Under FOIA, the DOE had until April 22 to respond -- but it …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Delegation from oil-afflicted Amazon visits Louisiana tribes hit by BP disaster

A delegation of indigenous and community leaders from Ecuador is visiting Louisiana this week at the invitation of the United Houma Nation, a tribe in coastal Lafourche and Terrebone parishes that has been hit hard by the BP oil catastrophe. The Ecuadoreans have come to share lessons they've learned dealing with another oil disaster: U.S. oil companies' dumping of toxic waste in the Amazon rainforest. From 1964 until it pulled out in 1992, Texaco -- which merged with Chevron a decade ago -- dumped some 17 million gallons of crude oil and 20 billion gallons of drilling waste water into …

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Tennessee fines TVA $11.5 million for coal ash spill, but is it enough?

The state of Tennessee has assessed an $11.5 million penalty against the Tennessee Valley Authority for the December 2008 coal ash spill from a holding pond at its Kingston power plant in Roane County. The fine is the largest ever imposed by the state's environmental regulators -- but some affected residents say it's not enough. While Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke called the penalty "appropriate," local resident Randy Ellis -- a member of committees involved in the cleanup effort -- said the assessment was a "slap on the wrist" given the scope of the disaster. "But …

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What’s next for coal ash?

This is the final installment in Facing South's week-long investigation into the growing national problem of coal ash waste and the looming battle over regulation. To read earlier installments in the series, visit here. A series of coal ash disasters -- both catastrophic, like the spill of a billion gallons of toxic ash at a Tennessee Valley Authority plant in 2008, and ongoing, such as the contamination of North Carolina's drinking water from ash used in building fill -- have exposed gaping holes in how the United States regulates coal ash, the second-biggest stream of industrial waste. As Facing South …

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When recycling goes bad

A coal ash fill under construction at the site of a former Coca-Cola plant in Weldon, N.C.Photo: N.C. Division of Waste ManagementA special Facing South investigation. After coal is burned at power plants, leaving massive heaps of ash, not all of the waste ends up in landfills and impoundments like the one that failed catastrophically in east Tennessee in December 2008. A growing share of the nation's coal ash is being reused and recycled, finding its way into building materials, publicly used land and even farmland growing food crops. And despite the presence of toxins like arsenic, chromium, and lead …

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Big energy vs. coal ash regulation

A special Facing South investigation. At her January 2009 confirmation hearing, Lisa Jackson promised to take action on coal ash.Photo: Senate Enviroment and Public Works CommitteeWhen the catastrophic coal ash spill occurred at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston plant in 2008, a quiet debate over how to regulate coal ash had already been going on for decades, largely outside the view of the public or press. That all changed with the Kingston spill, which aside from releasing a billion gallons of toxic waste into a nearby community and river system also pushed the problem of coal ash into the national …

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Disaster in east Tennessee

The coal ash that spilled from a failed impoundment at TVA's Kingston plant in eastern Tennessee filled the Emory River, creating huge mounds of toxic waste that locals called ashbergs.Photo: Sarah McCoinA special Facing South investigation. Shortly before 1 a.m. on Dec. 22, 2008, a dike holding back an 84-acre pond of wet coal ash at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston plant near Harriman, Tenn. ruptured and collapsed following weeks of heavy rains. A billion gallons of muddy, gray coal ash loaded with arsenic, lead and other contaminants poured across the nearby Emory River to the neighborhood along Swan Pond …