Saturday, June 13, 2009

"Terrorist" Threat to Keep Toxic Coal Ash Sites Secret?

You would think that there is a 'domestic terrorist' threat behind every rock by the talk of some government 'officials.'

http://www.nytimes.com/images/blogs/freakonomics/posts/Spill10.jpg
This Tennessee disaster may have given 'terrorists' ideas.

WASHINGTONThe Tennessean -Dozens of communities nationwide are at risk from a coal ash spill like the one that blanketed a Tennessee neighborhood last year, but the Obama administration has decided not to tell the public about it because of the danger of a terrorist attack.

The Environmental Protection Agency has classified 44 coal ash storage ponds in 26 communities as potential hazards.

The EPA’s attempt to catalog coal ash sites around the country began after the December spill at a coal-fired utility plant near Kingston, Tenn., owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

When a retaining wall collapsed, hundreds of acres were covered with coal ash sludge. The grayish, toxic muck destroyed or damaged 40 homes. Cleanup may cost nearly $1 billion.

The agency, which earlier this year pledged to be transparent and carry out its work in the public view, wanted to disclose the information until the Army Corps of Engineers said it shouldn’t because of national security concerns.

The information is now caught in a bureaucratic tussle, with one agency wanting to alert the public to the hazard and another agency fearing that widespread release of the information might, if terrorists got involved, put the public in danger.

Senator wants disclosure

In a letter dated June 4, the Corps told the EPA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency that the federal government should not alert the public to the whereabouts of the sites.

“Uncontrolled or unrestricted release (of the information) may pose a security risk to projects or communities by increasing its attractiveness as a potential target,” Steven L. Stockton, the Army Corps’ director of civil works, wrote in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

At the same time, the Corps letter says the information should be passed on to state officials or coal plant operators and they should tell nearby communities of the risks.

California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer called Friday for the disclosure of the hazardous coal ash storage sites around the country.

“If these sites are so hazardous, then I believe that it’s essential to let people know,” Boxer said.

“I think secrecy might lead to inaction.”

She said she has written to the three federal agencies asking whether withholding the information is consistent with the way information about other hazardous sites is handled.

Boxer, as chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has held several hearings on the issue and has promised more.

Boxer said she was allowed to tell other senators who represent states where the dangerous sites are located, and they have contacted emergency response agencies in those areas.

She said the restriction on disclosing the locations doesn’t make sense to her.
“There is a huge muzzle on me,” she said.

Decision isn't final

The sites have existed for years with little or no federal regulation. And oversight at the state level varies, with some treating coal ash ponds like dams used for power generation and flood control and others not regulating their construction or siting at all.

The 44 sites were ranked as high hazards, meaning they could cause death and significant property damage if a storm, a terrorist attack or a structural failure caused them to spill into surrounding neighborhoods.

Eric Halpin, special assistant for dam and levee safety for the Corps of Engineers, said that “we did not direct anyone to withhold or not release information,” but he said federal policy says “you shouldn’t make it easy for the bad guys to do their jobs” by posting lists on the Internet or giving them to the media.

A Homeland Security Department spokeswoman said late Friday that the Corps position was not the final word on the matter and could be reversed. A final recommendation will be made by the FEMA administrator after a review by the National Dam Safety Review Board.

The EPA estimates that about 300 dry landfills and wet storage ponds are used around the country to store ash from coal-fired power plants.

The man-made structures hold a mixture of the noncombustible ingredients of coal and the ash trapped by equipment designed to reduce air pollution from the power plants.

The latest Energy Department data indicate that 721 power plants nationwide produced 95.8 million tons of coal ash in 2005.

The ash can contain heavy metals and other toxic contaminants, but there are no federal regulations or standards that govern its storage or disposal.

source: The Tennessean

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Barbara Boxer cares?? She's more interested in getting the cap and trade bill passed. It's where the money for a few is to be made at the expense of the people. That's her caring.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-California) has now signaled her panel might act before August.

Boxer for the first time Thursday stated a clear desire to mark up a cap-and-trade bill in her panel before the August recess.

Boxer has waited for House Democratic leaders to act in order to help use their deal-making with an array of Democrats to make it easier for her to get a filibuster-proof 60 votes.

She is not expected to make major changes to the House bill. {source}

2 comments:

  1. Looks to me like real "terrorists" took control of those hazardous sites years and years ago when they abandoned their responsibilty to maintain the dams holding back that toxic slop.

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  2. Yes, the government doesn't seem to concerned that the slop was/is RADIOACTIVE and the effect that has on the people living there (or near any sludge pit)!

    Who are the "terrorists" again?

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