Posted May 25, 2018 05:31:03It’s no secret that coal-saturated land is the most inhospitable environment for plants, and many of us who live in areas that produce more coal, such as Appalachia and the Mid-Atlantic, are especially sensitive to the toxic air and water.
But in the past few years, coal production in the U.S. has skyrocketed and coal companies have been aggressively targeting new landfills that they hope will hold the coal.
As of 2020, more than 1.5 million acres of land in the Appalachian region, home to many coal mines, have been burned to create coal ash ponds, or coal ash tanks, which hold the liquid that’s then used to create the chemical compounds called “black carbon.”
The new coal ash storage facilities, which are largely built by private companies, have generated a massive amount of CO2, especially in rural areas and small towns.
They also create a toxic legacy that can’t be undone, and have also increased the amount of air pollution, according to a report from the American Lung Association.
The new waste ponds can hold a total of 1.3 million tons of CO 2 , which translates to a roughly 1,400-fold increase in air pollution in the country’s largest state, according the report.
The report says the EPA has yet to put any limits on the amount that coal plants can dump into the landfilling ponds, which have become a major source of pollution.
But, if the government allows for it, the coal industry could be allowed to dump up to 5.5 billion tons of coal ash per year into the nation’s waterways, the report said.
“As this industry continues to grow and expand, the potential for these ponds to cause pollution is increasing,” said Mary Beth Tully, the president of the Environmental Working Group, a group that represents local communities in coal-producing states.
“It is a direct result of this industry, and the fact that it is being allowed to continue unchecked, without a full public debate on the issue.”
A new proposal to ban coal ash pits in the United States would likely be a major win for the coal companies.
In the 2016 coal-ash ban that took effect in the West Virginia and Kentucky coal counties, the EPA said that about 1.2 million tons was dumped into the waste pits, which it called a “significant increase” over the prior ban.
But a proposal to allow for a new ban in the Midwestern coal belt, which includes many coal-rich counties in the Great Plains, has met with fierce opposition from coal companies, who argue that the new rule will cause more coal to be released into the air.
A proposed new rule from the EPA could lead to a huge increase in coal ash pollution, said John Tice, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at Michigan State University.
He said a new rule that allows for a total ban on coal ash disposal in the state could be a huge victory for the industry.
“A ban on dumping coal into waste pits would lead to more pollution in those areas, and that would be a very significant increase,” Tice said.