By Angelique Giraud, Energy Community Organizer
Right now, Florida’s public health and the safety of our water resources are in jeopardy. Clean Water Action is calling on Governor Rick Scott to veto dangerous legislation that would put our communities at heightened risk for exposure to toxic coal ash. Join us and take action today!
Burning coal generates cheap energy, but at what cost to our environment and public health? Entire ecosystems are destroyed to extract, burn, and dispose of coal. Public and environmental health is threatened at every stage of the lifecycle of coal. Blasting mountaintops to mine the coal contaminates our water and makes us sick. Burning coal releases air pollution that chokes us and damages our lungs. Toxic coal ash landfills and unstable leaking ponds expose us to toxic chemicals through water contamination and sometimes even spills into our neighborhoods.
As if that onslaught of toxic exposure weren’t enough, coal ash is also sold back to us to be reused as filler in products that end up in our homes, schools, and neighborhoods.
Coal ash is toxic trash, it’s the leftover waste generated by coal-fired power plants. Emission controls are used to capture and trap heavy metals, radioactive particles, and other toxic compounds to keep them out of the air we breathe. Coal ash is the toxic remainder of this process and contains substances known to cause cancer and neurologic damage in humans.
Florida produces a lot of coal ash and in the past decade our coal ash has become increasingly toxic. As many plants have been retrofitted with devices to better clean the air, the coal ash left behind poses a new level of hazardous threat.
The state’s fifteen coal power plants generated over 17 billion pounds of coal ash in 2011, and all of that toxic ash has to go somewhere. Coal ash disposal is nationally a controversial issue, with industry fighting against the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal for common sense rules to protect the public from toxic exposure. About half of Florida’s coal ash is disposed on-site at power plants, and the other half is sold for reuse as filler in construction products like cement, road cover, wallboard, and mixed with soil for agriculture.
In other words, the toxics we want to keep out of our air supply could end up in the pavement of a neighborhood park or as roofing material at an elementary school.
The Florida Legislature recently passed SB 682, which identifies numerous ways to reuse coal ash for the purpose of removing legal constraints and departmental oversight on such uses. The bill would make it easier for companies to sell coal ash for reuse in a number of ways without adequate scientific testing to see if these uses are safe for public health or our environment. The bill has now been sent to Governor Scott for final consideration.
Governor Scott needs to take decisive action to protect Floridians from toxic exposure. He should veto this bill immediately, and demand that the legislature amend the language to require that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will have supervision over all coal ash reuse projects. We need oversight from our state’s environmental experts to ensure that coal ash is managed safely and properly.
This issue could not be more urgent. One of Florida’s utility companies, Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA), has a history of using coal ash, marketed as a product called EZBase, uncovered on public roads under the premise that it is “as safe as sand” in areas where families live, work, and recreate. Initial widespread use of EZBase caused immediate negative health effects in some neighborhoods forcing several counties to ban this product altogether. SB 682 would make it harder for DEP to protect communities from EZBase and similar products that lack adequate safety testing.
Clean Water Action urges Governor Scott to veto SB 682 to keep toxic coal ash out of our homes and neighborhoods. This bill would put into law uses of coal ash that pose serious threat to the health of our communities and the quality of our water supply.
Please take action today and contact Governor Scott. Tell him your family deserves to be protected from toxic coal ash.