Press Release | August 3, 2023

EPA proposes to deny Alabama’s coal ash program

Disposal of millions of tons of coal ash must comply with federal rules

MONTGOMERY, Ala.– Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed denial of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s (ADEM) application to operate a state program to permit coal ash disposal sites under the federal Coal Combustion Residuals Rule. 

“By proposing to deny ADEM’s application to take over coal ash regulation in Alabama, the EPA has stood up for Alabama communities and our state’s clean water. ADEM has repeatedly allowed Alabama Power and TVA to leave coal ash beside our rivers and lakes, sitting deep in groundwater, and threatening communities and our water resources. EPA has sent ADEM, Alabama Power, and TVA a strong message: You have to clean up the mess and you can’t leave coal ash forever in dangerous unlined polluting pits,” said Barry Brock, Director of SELC’s Alabama office.

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. These pits leak, they pollute clean water, and they are at risk during floods, hurricanes, and bad weather. ADEM has been issuing state permits to allow the utilities to leave coal ash forever in these unlined pits by putting a cap over them and leaving coal ash saturated in water. In other Southeastern states, utilities have been required to remove coal ash from these dangerous lagoons and either recycle it into cement and concrete or move it to safe, dry, lined storage away from waterways. Coal ash is being removed from every unlined lagoon in North and South Carolina, Dominion is removing coal ash from every unlined pit in Virginia, and Georgia Power is removing two-thirds of its coal ash from unlined pits in Georgia. Only in Alabama are all the utilities leaving all their coal ash in unlined waterfront impoundments, and ADEM is authorizing the utilities to do so.

Frank Holleman, coordinator of SELC’s regional coal ash work stated: “Unlined waterfront coal ash lagoons damage our communities, pollute our water, and threaten our rivers. Two massive coal ash disasters in our region— Kingston, Tennessee in 2008 and on the Dan River in North Carolina in 2015— serve as catastrophic examples of the danger unlined pits create. By proposing to deny ADEM’s application, EPA has made a strong statement that it will enforce and uphold the protections for communities and clean water contained in the federal CCR Rule.”

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Press Contacts

Terah Boyd

Communications Manager (AL/GA)

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