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Mother Nature may be conspiring to force the issue of fossil fuels into the national consciousness.  While we’re watching the devastation in the Gulf of Mexico, the story about the other deadly energy source, coal, is getting less attention.

Within minutes of the release of the long-awaited EPA report on the dangers of coal ash on May 4, several environmental groups held a phone conference to discuss the report. Earthjustice is taking the lead in summarizing the report and urging public participation during the 90-day comment period.

Background:  In December 2009, EPA released findings from studies of coal ash and scrubber sludge residues using new and more accurate testing methods.  This report showed much higher levels of toxic substances than previously thought.  Ironically, what the coal industry has done is trade one environmental problem for another.  Pollutants that used to spew out into the air now are contained and stored in surface empoundments where the heavy metals leach into groundwater.

In Labadie, Mo, the power company, AmerenUE, wants to build a 400 acre landfill to store the residue next to its plant in the Missouri River floodplain.  A highly motivated group of residents is trying to head this monster off before it gets started.

A rational person might think that a damaging report by environmental scientists demonstrating incredibly toxic levels of mercury, arsenic, lead, selenium, etc. in coal ash would shelve any plans to dump the stuff in a floodplain.  But, then again, a rational person might be living in la la land – or at least in a more advanced culture than what we have to put up with in the good ole USA.

Missouri Reps Skeleton and Leutkemeyer, as well as the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, have all written letters to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson opposing regulation of coal waste as a hazardous substance.  They basically say that Missouri is already doing a great job of monitoring and regulating coal waste and more regs would just be too expensive.  Where have we heard that before?

This is an ongoing story.  More later.