INSTITUTE INDEX: EPA seeks public comment on closing coal ash loophole

Earthjustice map showing locations of 292 unregulated coal ash landfills across the U.S.

This Earthjustice map shows the locations of the 292 coal ash landfills at 161 coal-fired power plants that are exempt from federal oversight under current federal rules. Because of a lawsuit filed by the legal group on behalf of environmental organizations, the EPA is now considering closing the regulatory loophole. (Map via Earthjustice; click on this link to see the table referenced in the key.)

Year in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted its first-ever rule on coal ash, which is the toxic, health-damaging waste left over after coal is burned to make electricity: 2015

Month in which the legal nonprofit Earthjustice filed a federal lawsuit against the EPA on behalf of grassroots environmental groups for exempting from its coal ash rule hundreds of inactive or abandoned coal ash landfills, which are sited disproportionately in low-income communities and communities of color: 8/2022

As part of the proposed settlement in that lawsuit, date by which the EPA is collecting public comments on closing the loophole: 3/6/2023

Because of the loophole, estimated portion of coal ash that is now exempt from federal oversight: 1/2

If one were to fill freight train cars with the currently unregulated coal ash, number of times they would wrap around the earth: 2

According to Earthjustice's research into EPA records, number of currently unregulated coal ash landfills that are present in a total of 38 states — including every state in the South except for Arkansas: 292

Portion of these unregulated coal ash dumps that are located in Southern states: 1/3

Number in Texas, the state with the most: 28

Number in West Virginia, the state with the second-most: 13

According to a 2022 study by Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project, percent of U.S. coal-fired power plants where ash is contaminating groundwater with dangerous levels of carcinogens and neurotoxins including arsenic, lead, mercury, and other heavy metals: 91

According to EPA research, risk of getting cancer for people who live within a mile of an unlined coal ash dump: 1 in 50

Number of times that risk exceeds what the EPA considers an acceptable limit: 2,000

If after considering public comments EPA decides to address the unregulated coal ash, date by which a draft rule would be completed under the lawsuit's consent decree: 5/5/2023

Date by which the final rule would be issued: 5/6/2024

(Click on figure to go to source.)