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Invest 60 Seconds for
A Strong Coal Ash Rule

Coal ash is waste material left after burning coal in a power plant. This residual material contains heavy metals and other highly hazardous chemicals that historically have been placed in unlined ponds and allowed to leak into our precious surface and groundwaters.

Last year, Governor JB Pritzker signed the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act into law, making our state one of only three in the nation to regulate the handling of toxic coal ash. The Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) is now developing final coal ash rules. Public hearings were held in August and September where testimony was heard from IEPA staff, industry representatives, environmental organizations and over 100 members of the public.

Sign the Letter!
There is still time to make your opinion count, but time is running out. The public comment period closes on October 30. 2020. Send a message to the IPCB that says we must have strong rules to protect our rivers and drinking water from coal ash pollution. Read the letter, below. Then, add your contact information to the form on the right to sign on.


Mr. Don Brown, Clerk
Illinois Pollution Control Board
1021 North Grand Avenue East
Springfield, Illinois 62794-9274

Dear Mr. Brown:

This letter provides public comments in R20-19 on behalf of all of the individuals signed below. We have four primary concerns about the rule as currently proposed.  The rule:

  1. Needs to prevent coal ash from getting wet after closure and especially from being in contact with groundwater.
  2. Should cover coal ash fill and dumps, which also release harmful pollution into our waters and air.
  3. Needs to enhance requirements for worker and community protections.
  4. Should ensure all members of the public, including non-English speakers, have access to all documents and a meaningful opportunity to provide public comment on all documents considered in permitting decisions.

The rules must ensure that coal ash, wherever it is stored, does not get wet either now or in the future. Illinois EPA’s rule should explicitly state that coal ash cannot be closed-in-place if ash is or will remain wet. Additionally, the requirements for cleaning up groundwater contamination must be clear: clean-up will not be treated as complete until ash is no longer exposed to water.

In addition to coal ash impoundments, many power plants have very old coal ash dumps (or landfills) and coal ash scattered around the plant site because it was used as “fill” for construction. The draft rule covers only coal ash impoundments, but excludes coal ash fill and landfills. The draft rule should cover scattered coal ash, coal ash fill, and coal ash landfills and dumps in addition to impoundments. By leaving them out of the rulemaking, we are only solving part of the coal ash pollution problem.

Removing coal ash responsibly requires worker protections and dust restrictions to protect communities and workers. The draft rule includes some onsite worker protections, but there are major gaps. Increased monitoring of coal ash dust is necessary to ensure that workers and communities are protected. Safety and health plans that are a required part of closure permits must contain all the necessary safety and health measures to prevent workers’ exposure to ash. Finally, the rules must require that all transportation alternatives for coal ash removal are considered, including barge, rail, and very low polluting trucks (i.e., electric).

Community members, members of the public, and non-English speaking communities must have access to and an opportunity to review all documents supporting permit applications. The proposed rules need to make all key documents available for public review in an easily-accessible place and with sufficient time for review. The final rules should include additional requirements for both Illinois EPA and industry to meaningfully engage non-English populations. As proposed, there is only one isolated requirement for translating anything in the rule. The final rules should require that, if requested, interpreters be present at the meetings and hearings, and translated permit materials be made available well in advance of comment deadlines. If there is a non-English language predominantly spoken in a community near a coal ash pond, the final rules should also require that notice for a public hearing be in that non-English language. This ensures that communities have a voice and are protected and that owners and operators are complying with required safeguards.

Thank you for all the time and effort you are putting into developing strong and effective coal ash rules and thank you for considering these comments.

Thank you.

 

By submitting this form, your name and address may be filed with a public agency and become public record. We will not share your personal information for any other purpose.

Coal ash pollution seeping through the berms of the coal ash pit along the west bank of the Middle For of the Vermilion River. Photo by Pam Richart, Eco-Justice Collaborative.