January 15, 2009
Bill Calls For Stricter Coal Plant Requirements
The federal government may soon begin regulating the disposal of some wastes from coal-fired power plants thanks to a bill filed on the heels of a major U.S. coal ash spill.
The legislation, proposed by House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, would set federal standards for the design, construction, and upkeep of coal ash impoundments.The measure is in response to the collapse of an earthen dike at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston coal-fired power plant in December.
Environmentalists say coal ash was spilled across 400 acres; it extended into a waterway, blocked a road, and ruined three homes.
The TVA said the ash had been stored in a sludge pond after decades of coal burning.
In addition, a second, smaller coal ash spill occurred earlier this month at TVA's Widows Creek power plant in northeast Alabama.
"It is impossible to write off the disaster in Tennessee as a freak accident," Rahall said in a statement.
"The absence of national standards for coal ash has resulted in environmental damage and threats to human health throughout the country - not just last month, or last year, but for decades, and as far as we know this may be just the tip of the iceberg," he added.
The legislation would require that storage designs are reviewed by a geologist or an engineer and also mandate regular inspections by qualified engineers of these structures.
Image Caption: The Kingston Fossil Plant, built and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, viewed from Interstate 40 near Kingston, Tennessee, in the southeastern United States. Courtesy Brian Stansberry - Wikipedia
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