Sue Sturgis

Sue Sturgis is the editorial director of Facing South, the online magazine of the nonprofit Institute for Southern Studies in Durham, N.C.

the toll of coal

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

The 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.

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 …

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 …

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 …

coal bash

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 …

'Dumpsites in Disguise'

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 …