Over the past year, concerned citizens of Oklahoma have been learning about coal ash, a by-product of burning coal for power, and working to educate others about the problems it causes in Oklahoma and around the country. Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Academy of Sciences have years of research linking coal ash with serious health and environmental problems.
The EPA released two proposed rules to regulate the disposal of coal ash. As expected, the coal industry is fighting to maintain the status quo on coal ash, backing a proposal that ensures coal ash is treated less responsibly than household trash.
The Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club has gathered hundreds of comments and petition signatures from Oklahomans that ask the EPA to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste. The EPA held a series of public hearings and at each one, those who testified asking the EPA to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste far outnumbered those who opposed meaningful regulation.
Despite the hurricane and tornado that hit Dallas on Sept. 8, 25 Oklahomans traveled there to tell the EPA how coal ash is impacting Oklahoma. They traveled from Bokoshe, Ft. Gibson, Bartlesville, Oklahoma City, Edmond, Norman and Tulsa to tell their stories. The public comment period for the proposed rules came to a close on Nov. 19. The EPA has the option to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste or cave in to corporate pressure.
This is about protecting the health of communities, families and the future children of Oklahoma and other states that are impacted by the lack of state regulations on the disposal of coal ash. The other option is to protect the corporations that are contaminating our air and water.
Wesner is chair of the Oklahoma Sierra Club.