regulation

Southern Company CEO Admits Kemper "Clean Coal" Plant is a Bust

  • Posted on: 27 February 2017
  • By: Connor Gibson

Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning and former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz tour the Kemper facility construction site in 2013. Photo credit: Terri Ferguson Smith and The Meridian Star.

This article was written by Dan Zegart at the Climate Investigations Center. I am crossposting this with his permission. 

Update: I've added some of the FOIA documents, below, from the CIC's investigations into the Kemper facility, courtesy of the Energy and Policy Institute.

In an apparent first salvo in a public relations campaign to shift blame for the Kemper power plant boondoggle away from himself and corporate management and onto state regulators, Southern Company chief executive officer Tom Fanning admitted this week that Kemper plant is not economically viable as a coal-burning power plant.

The startling reversal came during an earnings call Thursday at a time when Southern faces intense scrutiny from federal and state regulators and the Securities and Exchange Commission - - and as its Mississippi Power Company subsidiary, the plant's owner, faces a Moody's downgrade over Kemper's skyrocketing costs and failure to operate despite being three years past its promised operating date.  Southern took a 27 percent hit to its fourth quarter net income thanks to Kemper schedule delays.

During the call, Fanning acknowledged that Kemper can only be feasible if it runs on natural gas as financial analysts questioned him about a just-released "economic viability" study by Southern that found that low gas prices for the long-term mean the plant can't profitably gasify lignite in the gasifiers Southern spent most of $7.1 billion to build.  

Fanning called a "reduction in the longterm gas price forecast" an "overwhelming change, the big change. Obviously, there are others. It is a point in time. When we had this plant certificated, we all thought that gas prices were going to be double digits and there was some spread that were way higher than where we are now."

Fanning's comments came as the company announced it will soon file a rate case with the Mississippi Public Service Commission seeking to recover its costs for the plant.  

Although Fanning has often reassured Mississippians that they are protected by a  $2.88 billion cost cap agreement limiting their liability for the plant's runaway budget,  he has failed to mention that once the plant is declared operational, the cap won't protect them from additional costs of some $4 billion. That includes $200 million a year in operation and maintenance costs, a disturbingly high figure that keeps going up for the novel "clean coal" plant.

To investors, Southern often touts its friendly relationships with state regulators in the four states in which its regulated utilities operate, but the fall 2015 Mississippi PSC election quickly became a referendum on Kemper, replacing two commissioners who reliably rubberstamped MPC's agenda with two new faces, Sam Britton and Cecil Brown, both of whom have pledged not to leave ratepayers holding the bag.

A source close to the Public Service Commission told CIC recently that the PSC staff has run the numbers and that even under the cap, electrical rates could increase by 40 percent or more - a catastrophic burden for MPC's 186,000 disproportionately lower-income customers in 23 counties in southern Mississippi.

 

Critics have noted that a natural gas facility comparable to the 582-megawatt Kemper facility would have cost about $500 million. 

During the earnings call, Fanning did not draw the obvious conclusion and admit the plant will never actually use its twin gasifiers to produce electricity.

In fact, while admitting the technology isn't viable, Southern nevertheless claimed in its annual report filed last week that it plans to have the plant on-line with both gasifiers operating by mid-March. 

Mississippi Power already faces three lawsuits over allegations that it misrepresented when the plant would be completed and how much it would cost during the project's seven-year history.  Those allegations, aired in a front page New York Times story last summer, are also the subject of a probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

An important prong of Southern's PR strategy seems to be to shift the blame for Kemper onto the PSC itself.  During the earnings call, Fanning also said, as he has frequently of late, that Southern built the Kemper energy facility because the Mississippi PSC wanted a coal facility as a "hedge" against potential "double-digit" gas prices.

However, documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request from the Department of Energy, which has provided a total of $407 million in grants for Kemper, demonstrate that the impetus for the facility came from senior management at Southern, including then-chief operating officer Fanning, and from Mississippi Governor and longtime Southern Company lobbyist Haley Barbour, who pressured first the Department of Energy, and then enlisted the secretary of energy himself, to pressure Mississippi's three PSC commissioners into approving plans for the construction of Kemper.  

The documents also reveal that while possible gas price volatility was cited,  Southern Company's proposal relied almost entirely on the plant's promise as a test case for cutting CO2 emissions from burning coal - especially lignite coal, a dirty, low-energy, but plentiful variety found in eastern Mississippi and throughout the world.  

Barbour was both governor of Mississippi and still actively lobbying for the company in early 2008 when he and Southern officials launched an all-out campaign to convince the Department of Energy to transfer an existing grant to build a 285-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Orlando, Florida to a new site in Kemper County, near the Alabama border.

Taking advantage of the availability of hundreds of millions of dollars from DOE's Clean Coal Power Initiative, Southern doubled the size of the plant, added carbon capture and sequestration technology to the Orlando design, which used a first-of-its-kind technology developed by Southern Company and Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) called transport integrated gasification (TRIG) to heat coal under high pressure in a reactor and turn it into a syngas similar to natural gas to drive a turbine to generate electricity.

KBR and Southern hope that licensing the TRIG technology in coal-reliant countries like Poland where lignite is common will help pay back development costs.

This technology makes Kemper, for all practical purposes, a petrochemical plant, not a traditional coal-fired electric plant.  TRIG uses a KBR process called "catalytic cracking" that, according to DOE, "has been used successfully for over 50 years in the petroleum refining industry."

Notably, however, it had never been used to generate electricity.

Angling for a sizeable increase in support from DOE over what it received for its Orlando project,  Southern tricked out Kemper with additional goodies.  

These included carbon capture equipment,  plus a process to produce sulfuric acid from waste gases. The plan was to strip out the CO2 and connect the plant to an existing network of CO2 pipelines, then inject the gas into older, underproducing Mississippi oil fields to push up more oil - a process known as enhanced oil recovery.  

In so doing, however, Southern now added further complexity and uncertainty to the still-untested TRIG system.

On February 6, 2008, Eric Burgeson of BGR, Haley Barbour's lobbying firm, requested that then-Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman meet with himself, Barbour, then-Southern CEO-David Ratcliffe,  and other officials Southern Company and Mississippi Power officials to discuss moving and expanding the DOE's commitment from the Orlando project to Kemper.  The initial cost projection was $1.2 billion.  DOE would put up $270 million on top of $23 million spent in Orlando - where the project was already substantially over-budget.

"Front-end Engineering and Design (FEED) is underway to support operation in Kemper County in June 2013," Burgeson wrote, although Southern later admitted that very little FEED had been completed.

Barbour had personally lobbied for Southern Company for more than a decade before he became governor and began representing it again upon leaving office in 2012.  Despite the questionable ethics of a sitting governor working hand-in-glove with his own lobbying firm to reel in more than a quarter of a billion dollars in DOE money for Southern Company (Barbour defends himself by noting he put his 50,000 shares of BGR in a "blind trust" when he became governor),  the meeting with DOE Secretary Bodman took place on February 26th.

By the fall of 2008, a funding package of almost a billion dollars in DOE grants and federal tax credits was in place.  By then the cost had already gone up to $2.4 billion and the schedule had been pushed back to spring 2014. DOE also waived repayment obligations for what was supposed to have been a loan.

To get the project rolling, however, Southern needed a "certificate of convenience and necessity" from the Mississippi Public Service Commission to certify that the project was needed and allow construction to begin

However, the PSC voted against the project in April 2010, then reversed its decision weeks later. In between, Barbour wrote the Commission urging approval, as did Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. James Markowsky, head of the department's Office of Fossil Energy, responsible for developing new coal technologies, wrote several such letters to the PSC.

There are reasons to doubt that the current PSC, despite campaign promises to the contrary, will actually hang tough with Mississippi Power if the utility tries to stick customers with an outsized bill for Kemper.

While neither of the new commissioners - Sam Britton and Cecil Brown - has made a public statement on the project lately,  Britton's campaign manager during his PSC run was Austin Barbour, Haley's nephew, and a principal in the GOP-focused Clearwater Group, whose other partner is Arnie Hederman, former chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party. 

Though his gubernatorial term ended in 2012, Barbour himself was deeply involved in the PSC races, and is believed to have hand-picked Britton to run in the Southern District against Democrat Tom Blanton, who financed a series of legal actions that overturned an 18 percent rate hike by Mississippi Power to help pay for Kemper. 

Britton is also connected to Barbour through his wife, Robin Robinson, director of organization, development and corporate communication at Sanderson Farms, the third largest poultry producer in the country and a major Barbour financial and political backer.  While governor,  Barbour appointed Robinson to the board of trustees of the state's Institutions of Higher Learning, which oversees public higher education.  Britton spent more than $300,000 on the campaign, an enormous sum for a PSC race, most of which came from his own pocket.  Barbour is thought to have ageed to back Robinson for lieutenant governor in the next election in return for Britton spending so lavishly on his PSC campaign.

All three commissioners have expressed concern that a too-tough stance on Kemper could bankrupt Mississippi Power, an unlikely scenario given past financial support by Southern for its troubled subsidiary. Asked about such a possibility during the earnings call,  Southern's Fanning said he believed that "we will maintain our support for Mississippi Power" and that it's "just not in anybody's interest to consider in any serious way something other than that."

In his remarks to the analysts, Fanning leaned heavily on the argument that low gas prices had suddenly made the coal plant idea economically unsound.  In fact, gas prices were trending far lower than Southern's forecasts when the project was approved by the PSC in 2010,  and opponents argued as far back as 2009 that the plant as proposed was uneconomic given natural gas prices.  

When the PSC held hearings in October 2009 to determine if the state actually needed additional electrical power, the Sierra Club pointed out that Mississippi already had 12 natural gas plants that sat idle 85 percent of the time and could provide up to 7,995 MW of power. Many of these were so-called merchant plants that were for sale for $500 million or less. 

Later, in April 2012, when the PSC reauthorized its approval for Kemper, Louie Miller, director of the Mississippi Sierra Club, complained to a reporter that the project was again being rubberstamped by a compliant PSC, ignoring ultra-low gas prices.

"There is no way they can justify Kemper under current conditions in the energy market," Miller said

 

Industry: 

West Virginians impacted by coal chemical spill need water

  • Posted on: 21 January 2014
  • By: JesseColeman

West Virginia Water Crisis: People in Need 10 Days Later

On January 9th, Freedom Industries, a company that stores chemicals for the coal industry, spilled 7,500 gallons of Crude Methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM), a little known, little understood compound into the Elk river. The spill occurred one mile upriver from the water intake that supplies tap water for all of West Virginia's capital city of Charleston.

The thick oily chemical was pumped through the water system and into homes and businesses throughout the area, causing vomiting, skin problems, and diarrhea. Now, nearly two weeks since the disaster was discovered, the water has been deemed "safe to drink," though water from the tap still releases a sickly sweet chemical odor, especially when heated.

Pregnant women and children are still advised to drink bottled water, but very few people in the affected area are interested in drinking from the tap, with child or not. The tremendous need for potable water has led to the creation of the West Virginia Clean Water Hub, a community led effort to provide the people of Charleston and the outlying areas with bottled water, a need that government agencies have largely ignored. Sign this petition to demand justice for people whose water has been poisoned

So little is known about 4-MCHM that regulators didn't even know it's boiling point. Now scientists are scrambling to find out how the chemical reacts with the chlorine in the municipal water system, and whether the chemical has leached into water heaters and water pipes in people's homes. Authorities recommend that all pipes that have come in contact with the pollutant be flushed, including water heaters and outdoor faucets. However, West Virginia American Water, the company that owns the water treatment facility contaminated by the coal chemical, is only offering a 10 dollar credit (1000 gallons) to consumers. The cost of flushing homes will therefore fall on already struggling West Virginians, where poverty is rampant and Walmart is the largest single employer.

West Virginians still need fresh water. To donate visit Keeper of the Mountain Foundation.

The affected intake also supplies water to 9 counties surrounding Charleston, which contain multiple rural communities, like the small community of Pratt. Pratt was added to Charleston's municipal water system only two months ago. This was initially celebrated by the residents of Pratt, because it meant relief from the extremely poor quality water from local sources, which have been contaminated by Acid Mine Drainage, coal dust, and other coal industry impacts.

Water contamination from the coal industry is nothing new to West Virginians, who have lived with poisoned wells streams for generations. This spill, the latest and most dramatic in a long history of water contamination, exposes the problems of lax and inadequate regulation coupled with politicians that prioritizes the bottom line of the coal industry over the health and safety of people. The chemical 4-MCHM was exempted from federal laws that require disclosure. The tanks that held the chemical were not required to be inspected regularly, due to a loophole that exempted above ground tanks from inspection.

Crews continue to work on the site of contamination at Freedom Industries.

West Virginian politicians with close ties to the coal industry have continued to defend coal companies from federal and state regulation, even as 300,000 of their constituents went without drinkable water.  Speaking at an event hosted by the coal front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) last week,  Joe Manchin, West Virginia’s junior senator and former governor continued to defend the coal industry from reglation. “Coal and chemicals inevitably bring risk — but that doesn’t mean they should be shut down,” said Manchin. “Cicero says, ‘To err is human.’ But you’re going to stop living because you’re afraid of making a mistake?” Manchin has significant financial ties to the coal industry.

The current governor of West Virginia, Earl Ray Tomblin, was also quick to defend the coal industry. In a press conference days after the spill, he said "“This was not a coal company.  This was a chemical supplier where the leak occurred.  As far as I know, there are no coal mines within miles of this particular incident.” Governor Tomblin's remarks ignore the fact that many communities affected by this spill are only using municipal water because local sources have already been poisoned by coal extraction and use. Tomblin also ignored the fact that Freedom Industries' product is a necessary part of the coal extraction and burning process.

To donate water to West Virginians, please visit the Keeper of the Mountain Foundation.

To volunteer or request clean water, visit the West Virginia Clean Water Hub.

Wes Virginia coal chemical spill

 

Industry: 

NC to Duke Energy: Have You Dumped ALEC Yet?

  • Posted on: 10 December 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

Amid a dump of leaked American Legislative Exchange Council documents published by The Guardian last week, North Carolina is asking Duke Energy: Have you finally dumped ALEC?

NC WARN and ProgressNC have both raised the question, based on Duke Energy's inclusion in a list of "Lapsed" private sector ALEC members featured in The Guardian and an article in the Raleigh News & Observer.

ALEC's notes for Duke Energy's lapsed membership, as of April 22, 2013, only say "Merged with Progress Energy, new contacts," indicating that Duke's absence was only temporary as new personnel were assigned to participate in ALEC's work. Duke and Progress merged into the largest U.S. utility company last year.

Duke Energy, North Carolina's monopoly utility company, has long been a member of ALEC. Last year, Duke Energy refused to leave ALEC even after being petitioned, emailed and called by over 150,000 people to defect. ALEC's controversial legacy includes blocking climate change policies as part of Big Oil's 1998 master plan, the NRA's Stand Your Ground laws, which increase homicide rates, and "Voter ID" bills that suppress legitimate American voters, especially students, the elderly and people with brown skin.

While Duke Energy has resisted calls to dump ALEC, it has responded to the pressure by distancing itself from several items on ALEC's dirty lobbying laundry list:

  • Duke has repeatedly pushed back on any association with ALEC's Stand Your Ground and voter suppression laws.
  • Duke's call for action to address global warming clash with ALEC's legacy of climate change denial, including new draft policies to interfere with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's greenhouse gas rules, and a bill that forces teachers to misrepresent climate change science to their students, now law in at least four states, thanks to state legislators implementing ALEC's model bills.
  • Duke has explicitly denounced ALEC's attacks on state Renewable Portfolio Standards-laws to increase utility electricity generation from cleaner sources. Duke takes credit for helping create North Carolina's RPS.

So why has Duke Energy resisted popular pressure to leave ALEC, including from its own ratepayers? If Duke doesn't like ALEC's history shilling for climate change deniers, nor the National Rifle Association, nor the Republican party's voter disenfranchisement strategies, what is making Duke stay?

ALEC's new attacks on rooftop solar electricity producer are right in line with Duke Energy's attempt to pay back 29% less to homeowners whose solar panels feed extra electricity back into the grid, despite the fact that these homeowners fronted the costs of installing and maintaining solar panels themselves.

Duke is terrified of the prospect of rooftop solar energy, which threatens its century-old monopoly business model. Duke is used to being the dominant company providing power to North Carolina residents, and they can basically charge customers as much as they want. More customers are choosing to install their own solar panels as the technology rapidly becomes cheaper, keeping money in the pockets of ratepayers rather than Duke's executives.

ALEC's Updating Net Metering Policies Resolution, discussed last week at its States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington, DC, would complement dirty utilities like Duke Energy that are working to make it more costly for people to feed their own solar power into the electrical grid. See here for ALEC's new anti-environmental resolutions.

Which Utilities will be Using ALEC's State Lawmakers to Attack Solar Energy?

ALEC's utility member companies The new ALEC resolution was crafted with help from lobbyists at Edison Electric Institute, the primary trade association for Duke and most other large U.S. utility companies.

EEI's roster also includes Arizona Public Service (APS), the utility that tried to force Arizona's residential solar electricity producers to pay $50 per month for feeding unused electricity back into the grid. In the end, the monthly fee was reduced to $5 per month, which still serves as a disincentive for homeowners to install their own solar panels.

As it sought to make net metering more expensive for small-scale solar producers, APS lied to the public, denying its funding of anti-solar TV advertisements run by Koch brothers front groups.

APS recently rejoined ALEC after disassociating for a short year. ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force includes APS and presumably Duke Energy, among other dirty energy giants. The EEA task force is governed by American Electric Power's Paul Loeffelman and Wyoming state Representative Thomas Lockhart, friend of the coal industry.

Duke Can Still Do the Right Thing

Duke Energy needs to make its intentions clear.

The company can go with the Koch brothers, ALEC, and companies like APS, and financially punish North Carolinians who choose to produce their own electricity. Or, it can finally dump ALEC, its bad policies and anti-democratic processes and shift to a business model that embraces the power of the sun. It can continue to plan around a cost on carbon emissions and phase out dirty coal that aggravates everything from climate change to water pollution to asthma.

We hope to get the right answer from Duke Energy soon.

Industry: 

Death Of A Talking Point? Regulations Actually Create Jobs

  • Posted on: 30 August 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Written by Farron Cousins, crossposted from DeSmogBlog.

For years, the Republican Party in America has been on a crusade against what they call “job killing regulations.” A quick Google search for the phrase “job killing regulations” returns 368,000 results – many from official Republican Party sources and some others attempting to debunk this talking point.

The phrase “Job killing regulations” has been a consistent battle cry for GOP Congressmembers in their war against workplace safety and environmental protections. True to form, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) echoed this sentiment on Monday with his reference to "job-destroying regulations" in a memo about the Republican plan to further gut the Environmental Protection Agency.

While this talking point is used to berate a lot of different government protections, from checks and balances applied to Wall Street, to product safety laws, to measures safeguarding consumers from dangerous chemicals in food and pharmaceuticals, and so forth.

But most often, the perjorative "job-killing regulations" talking point is used to describe the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) And it has resonated extremely well among an American public that is currently suffering from a severe lack of jobs. As of July 2011, we have an unemployment rate of 9.1%, resulting in almost 14 million Americans looking, but unable to find, a job. For a populace that desperately wants to work but is unable to do so, scapegoating “regulations” has been a very powerful and effective narrative.

Unfortunately for the Republican Party, these “job killing regulations” are a myth. There is no empirical data to back up their claims, but there is a wealth of information available showing that regulations – all regulations – actually promote job growth and put Americans back to work. A new report by Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) delivers the latest blow to this popular talking point, demonstrating a direct correlation between environmental regulations and job growth. NESCAUM looked at the Northeast and found that by enacting stricter fuel economy standards and pursuing cleaner forms of energy, more Americans would be put back to work.

From the NESCAUM study:

Employment increases by 9,490 to 50,700 jobs.

Gross regional product, a measure of the states’ economic output, increases by 2.1 billion to 4.9 billion.

Household disposable income increases by 1 billion to 3.3 billion.

Gasoline and diesel demand drops 12 to 29 percent.

Carbon pollution from transportation is cut by 5 to 9 percent.
 

And this is just for eleven states in the Northeast. A similar trend has been verified in California, where the standards set forth by NESCAUM are already in place.

But in the "Republicans Against Science" age, one study is certainly not enough to undo the damage that this “job killing regulation” GOP talking point has done to America, even when there are numerous other studies to back it up. Increased fuel economy standards already led to the creation of more than 155,000 U.S. jobs, according to the United Auto Workers union.

Last year, while Senate Democrats worked to pass sweeping environmental protection legislation, reports showed that the proposed efforts to protect the environment and invest in green technologies would have provided a boost to the economy by creating several hundred thousand much-needed jobs for out of work Americans.

But even though some of this information has been available to the public for years, many people still believe that any form of environmental protection will come at the expense of American jobs. The reason behind this mass ignorance once again lies with the GOP, which has deployed one of the most powerful echo chambers on the planet, consistently repeating the lie about “job killing regulations” over and over again. Unchallenged in their Fox News and right wing radio echo chambers, Republicans work to convince Americans that they have to choose between protecting the environment or the economy. They are aided by a network of industry front groups funded by polluting companies like ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

During a recent GOP presidential debate, candidate Michelle Bachmann expressed her disdain for the EPA:

“I would begin with the EPA, because there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the job-killing organization of America.”

See how she used the “job killing” catchphrase? That was not an accident. Frank Luntz would be proud of the message discipline.

Another GOP presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich, has said that he would completely do away with the EPA, a sentiment echoed by numerous GOP elected officials. The New York Times recently ran a headline declaring that bashing the EPA was the new “theme” of the 2012 GOP presidential race.

But it isn’t just elected GOP officials and big corporations repeating the talking point. So-called “independent” bloggers and reporters have taken up the mantle of attacking environmental protection as well. A recent piece cross-posted on BigHealthReport.com read: “Obama’s EPA Is Killing More Jobs than Economy Can Create.”

Here are a few comments from that article showing that this talking point is resonating quite well with some Americans:

Rudloph
August 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm
The ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION AGENCY is useless, it just makes our economy worse. Their whole existence depends on pollution and bad mouthing it.

Carolyn Kane
August 27, 2011 at 10:45 am
I am always amazed at how much power the E.P.A. has gained in the U.S.A. none of these people were ever voted in yet they control every part of our lives. I think it is time for people to start looking at everything that they do and if it is even legal.

Gary
August 27, 2011 at 12:13 pm
No surprise here. Does anybody really believe that Obama is serious on creating jobs. He is intent on destroying everything possible. Part of the Muslim plan.

Higgs
August 26, 2011 at 10:24 pm
Uh, the EPA and their regulations didn’t clean up the enviroment, advances in technology caused the decrease of pollutants released into our air and water. Now, the EPA is becoming to the “regulation world” as what unions have become to the working world. Both were needed in the beginning, but now they both are one part of the “big government” ideal of the socialists in Washington.
 

The list could go on and on. But not only were these commenters going after the EPA, they also re-hashed numerous other GOP talking points from the last few years. You’ll notice that they discuss the “Socialists in Washington” and one even makes the claim that Obama is a Muslim.

This shows just how powerful the GOP’s echo chamber is in American politics, and how selective people are when it comes to picking news sources. After all, there is plenty of credible, easily-accessible information to debunk “job killing regulations” and other talking points.

But if people don’t actively search out the facts after watching Fox or listening to Americans For Prosperity, the echo chamber has done its job misleading the American people. It's immoral and unethical behavior, and that's the only job we ought to be killing off.

Industry: 

Coal Ash: Blatantly and Egregiously Hazardous

  • Posted on: 18 November 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Coal Ash: One Valley's Tale

For information on the coal industry's backroom lobbying to prevent the classification of coal ash as "hazardous," check out the recent DeSmogBlog/PolluterWatch report, Coal Fired Utilities to American Public: Kiss My Ash [pdf]Also refer to the new Greenpeace map of high-hazard coal ash locations.

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to decide whether or not to federally regulate coal ash, wrapping up the public comment period that began in late June.  Coal ash, a residual product from burning coal, contains known neurotoxins and carcinogens, such as arsenic, lead, and mercury.  The substance is also notably radioactive.

Coal ash is less regulated than household garbage, and there's enough of the sludge to flow through Niagara Falls for over three days straight.


While Little Blue Run pond may give the impression of a quaint place to go for a swim, it is anything but.  Owned by FirstEnergy, Little Blue Run is a coal ash impoundment right near the converging border of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio (check this map).  The waste stored in Little Blue Run is produced seven miles away at FirstEnergy's Bruce Mansfield Power Station

If the dam holding the pond's material were to break, 50,000 people in Ohio would be in immediate danger of a toxic flood.  As if this dramatic threat is not stressful enough, people in the area also live with the lingering concerns of water contamination and ailments from dry ash circulated by the wind.

Lisa Jackson and the EPA seem to have no doubt about the dangers of coal ash.  The agency found there is at least a 1 in 50 chance of developing cancer when living close enough to ash ponds, and recognizes that ponds like Little Blue Run have arsenic levels 900 times that of what is considered "safe". 

It is time for the EPA to see its job through, ending the needless poisoning of Americans unfortunate enough to live too close to the toxic messes Big Coal leaves behind.

 

Photo Credit: Duke University

Industry: 

ConocoPhillips Bayway Refinery is a Serial Polluter

  • Posted on: 4 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

New Jersey's local ABC reports on the pollution regulation and enforcement problems surrounding the Bayway refinery, the largest refinery on the east coast, owned and operated by ConocoPhillips.  The plant has been cited for numerous pollution and safety violations.

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