With the leadership of Senator Scott Bennett, the Illinois Senate advanced SB9 on Thursday, May 9. The Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act is a bill that is aimed at ensuring safe closure of toxic coal ash pits left behind by power plants.
SB9 provides a regulatory framework that ensures Illinois EPA approves protective closure plans for coal ash impoundments; requires financial guarantees soo that Illinois taxpayers are not stuck with the bill; ensures public participation and transparency for affected communities; focuses on environmental justice communities and high risk impoundments; and assesses fees on polluters to provide Illinois EPA the resources they need to review the numerous coal ash impoundment closure plans mandated by the US EPA.
The bill drew major public support from individuals and groups across the state including:
Central Illinois Healthy Communities Alliance
Citizens Against Longwall Mining
Clean Power Lake County
Citizens for a Greener Illinois
Environmental Law & Policy Center
Faith in Place
Illinois Chapter Sierra Club
Illinois Environmental Council
Illinois Peoples’ Action
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
Metro-East Green Alliance
Prairie Rivers Network
Protect the Middle Fork
Next stop is the Illinois House of Representatives, where State Representative Carol Ammons will take up the bill as chief sponsor.
Passing SB9, The Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act is one of EJC’s 2019 priorities. Watch for ways you can get help in the coming weeks!
Did You Know?
Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal. It can contain heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and selenium, as well as aluminum, antimony, barium, beryllium, boron, chlorine, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, thallium, vanadium, and zinc. If eaten, drunk or inhaled, these toxicants can cause cancer and nervous system impacts such as cognitive deficits, developmental delays and behavioral problems. They can also cause heart damage, lung disease, respiratory distress, kidney disease, reproductive problems, gastrointestinal illness, birth defects, and impaired bone growth in children.
Coal ash is typically stored in impoundments on power plant sites, which are sited next to rivers and lakes.
Illinois has the most coal ash impoundments of any state, with at least 80 at dozens of power plant sites. At every location where groundwater has been tested, toxic coal ash pollutants have been found to be leaking into groundwater. This includes arsenic, mercury, lead and chromium. The toxic chemicals in coal ash can continue to leach into groundwater and surface waters for hundreds of years.
Currently, the owners of coal ash dumps in Illinois plan to leave much of that toxic coal ash in place. In the rare cases where they plan to excavate ash, the plan is often to add that ash to another neighboring coal ash dump that will be left in place. SB9 requires the Illinois EPA to evaluate removal as one of the alternatives for coal ash impoundment closures. This requirement is intended to ensure permanent protection will be provided for Illinois communities.
If SB9 is adopted, Illinois will join states like Virginia and North Carolina that already have adopted comprehensive legislation for safe closure of coal ash impoundments, providing much needed protection from this toxic waste.