Press Release | May 23, 2024

EPA denies Alabama’s coal ash plan

MONTGOMERY, Ala.– Today, the EPA finalized its denial of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s application to operate a state program to permit coal ash disposal sites under the federal Coal Combustion Residuals Rule. 

Alabama Power, TVA, and PowerSouth have dumped millions of tons of coal ash, containing toxic substances like arsenic and mercury, into unlined water-filled pits next to rivers and lakes throughout Alabama. EPA proposed denying the state program last August, stating that Alabama’s program is “notably less protective” than the federal rules, because it is allowing utilities to leave their toxic waste from coal burning power plants in unlined leaking pits, submerged in groundwater near the banks of Alabama rivers. EPA received more than 4,700 comments from citizens supporting the denial of Alabama program citing numerous health concerns including impacts to rivers, fish, and drinking water.

“The people of Alabama are emphatic. They do not want this toxic waste threatening their communities and waterways,” said Barry Brock, director of SELC’s Alabama office. “EPA hears Alabama citizens and is standing up to monopoly utilities like Alabama Power.”

One of the starkest examples of Alabama’s coal ash threat is Alabama Power’s Plant Barry, where more than 21 million tons of toxic coal ash sits in an unlined pit within the floodplain on the banks of the Mobile River, upstream from Mobile Bay. In 2023, EPA issued a Notice of Potential Violation as to Alabama Power’s plan to leave the Plant Barry coal ash in the unlined impoundment.

“Today marks a significant victory for every Alabamian who values clean water,” said Cade Kistler of Mobile Baykeeper. “The EPA’s final denial underscores what our communities have said all along — that leaving toxic coal ash in unlined leaking pits by our rivers is unacceptable. Alabama must adopt a protective permitting program that keeps communities safe by ensuring that utilities properly deal with coal ash, not allowing them to abandon it on our riverbanks.”

In recent years, there have been two major coal ash disasters when riverfront coal ash storage sites failed: in Kingston, Tennessee (2008), and on the Dan River in North Carolina and Virginia (2014).

“We’ve seen the catastrophic danger these primitive pits create. It’s unconscionable to expose people to this type of threat,” said SELC senior attorney Frank Holleman, coordinator of SELC’s regional coal ash work. “EPA is sending a strong message to polluters, not just here in Alabama but across the South—you must clean up this toxic mess in a safe and responsible way.”

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

Terah Boyd

Communications Manager (AL/GA)

Phone: (404) 521-9900
Email: [email protected]

Partner Contacts

Cade Kistler

Mobile Baykeeper

Phone: 256-572-6077
Email: [email protected]