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.

power politics

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 …

spreading the pain to alabama

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 …

it's time for action on coal ash

Coal’s dirty secret

The December 2008 impoundment failure at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston plant inundated a nearby community with toxic coal ash.Photo: United Mountain DefenseA special Facing South investigation. When a billion gallons of coal ash broke loose from a holding pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston power plant near Harriman, Tenn. in December 2008, registered nurse Penny Dodson was living nearby with her 18-month-old grandson, Evyn. Like most of her neighbors, Dodson never gave much thought to the impoundment until it collapsed, destroying three homes, damaging 42 others and inundating the nearby Clinch and Emory rivers with the sludgy coal …

With climate bill's fate uncertain, researchers offer another map to a clean energy future

Landmark legislation to curb U.S. carbon emissions is set to be introduced in the Senate today, but odds that the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill will pass are less than overwhelming. Former co-sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has withdrawn his support because he’s upset with the Senate’s decision to take up immigration reform first. He’s also said he thinks the climate measure needs to be reassessed in light of the catastrophic oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Nevertheless, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) say they will press on because they believe they can win the support needed for …

Let 'em duke it out

EPA proposes two options for coal ash oversight

EPA Administrator Lisa JacksonThe Environmental Protection Agency released not one, but two proposals yesterday for regulating the coal ash waste from power plants. The stricter rule of the two would empower the federal government to oversee coal ash like other hazardous waste; the less stringent rule would treat it like ordinary trash and leave oversight up to the states. The agency is asking the public to help it decide which approach makes the most sense during the 90-day comment period. “We look forward to the comments and participation of the American people,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said during a press …

Waterkeepers question use of dispersant chemicals at oil-spewing wellhead

The chief executive of BP says crews have been able to reduce the amount of oil reaching the Gulf’s surface from a massive underwater leak by using chemicals at the gusher’s source — but environmental advocates are raising questions about the plan’s safety. “We are adamantly opposed to dispersants being used at the well-head as we believe it adds more toxins and less value to the clean up process,” says Mobile Baykeeper Casi Callaway. “Certain dispersants may be useful at the shore/grassbed line, but we can’t endorse this action until we know what specific dispersants are to be used!” Speaking …

in utero the way to go?

Details emerge on study of cancer near U.S. nuclear plants

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently asked the National Academy of Sciences to study cancer risk for people living near nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities, and details of that research were discussed at yesterday’s meeting of the Academy’s Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board. The research request came in response to “recurrent stakeholder concerns,” said Brian Sheron, director of NRC’s Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research. The study will look at nuclear power plants as well as nuclear fuel facilities. It comes as the Obama administration is encouraging the expansion of commercial nuclear power. The NRC currently relies on a 1991 …

New safety issues documented with nuclear reactors planned for Southeast

Serious safety concerns continue to mount for the AP1000, a new type of nuclear reactor proposed for power plant sites across the Southeast. A report released Wednesday warns that the design of the Westinghouse reactor makes it particularly vulnerable to through-wall corrosion — already a widespread problem with existing commercial reactors — and thus the possibility of leaking radiation in the event of an accident. The report was commissioned by the AP1000 Oversight Group, which involves more than a dozen nuclear watchdog organizations. “The potential consequences of a radiation release to the environment from a small hole or crack in …

The hazards of using toxic coal ash for land development

Following the disastrous spill of a billion gallons of coal ash waste from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston plant in December 2008, poorly regulated coal ash impoundments like the one that failed have landed in the public spotlight. But other methods of disposing of coal ash waste have gotten less attention — even though they still present serious environmental hazards. A new report from the N.C. Sierra Club illuminates one practice of coal ash waste disposal that until now has stayed largely in the regulatory shadows: the use of the material in structural fills for development projects such as roads …

Got 2.7 seconds?

We've devised the world's shortest survey to find out what kind of actions our readers are taking. You know you want to.

×