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Clean air groups challenge U.S. coal waste decision

Clean air groups challenge U.S. coal waste decision
WASHINGTON - A group of clean air activist groups yesterday said they filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia objecting to the governments decision last May not to classify waste from coal-fired utility plants as "hazardous". The move by the Clean Air Task Force umbrella group was the latest twist in an ongoing battle with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on how best to classify coal-based waste at hundreds of facilities across the nation. "Utility and manufacturing companies burn about 1 billion tons of coal in power plants each year to make electricity. This produces 115 million tons of waste; the companies dump 70 percent of it into landfills, waste lagoons, quarries, and both active and abandoned coal mines," the Taskforce said. The practices contaminate community and agricultural water supplies and poison fish, they claimed. Late last May, the EPA said it would not classify waste from coal burning plants as hazardous, but would develop national standards to address the health and environmental impacts caused by toxic metals contained in the waste. EPA acted only after the courts declined to grant an extension for the agency to determine how to classify wastes from coal plants that are land disposed or used as fill-in mining. Combustion waste is currently exempted from federal regulation, but the EPA is concerned about toxic metals and what happens when the substances are improperly disposed, threatening public health and the environment. The agency also said it wanted states and industry to take steps to protect the environment, notably against utilities that burn fossil fuels and generate fly ash and bottom ash. Included in the petition asking for review of the EPA decision were: Citizens Coal Council, Hoosier Environmental Council, Conservation Law Foundation, Izaak Walton League of America, Clean Water Action Alliance of Massachusetts, Clean Air Council, HealthLink and Citizens Interested in Bull Run. REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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