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Coal ash regulation is a hot topic in Washington D.C. and in the communities it affects across the nation, but has anyone connected all of the dots and told the whole story? Not until now.
What is coal ash, and why should we care?
Coal ash is what remains after coal is burned to generate electricity, but it’s so much more than that for many people and businesses.
After a Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash basin burst days before Christmas in 2008, spilling more than a billion gallons of coal ash slurry over about 300 acres in Kingston, Tenn. then U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, vowed that the agency would regulate coal ash — something the agency has tried to do for decades — by December 2009. That didn’t happen. And, more than five years later, and it still hasn’t happened.
Instead, the agency released two regulatory options and held a series of public hearings. Since then, nearly half a million comments have been submitted, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that could prevent regulation, the Congressional Research Service released a report that Congress’ bills won’t do enough to protect people and the environment and several environmental groups have sued the EPA.
Meanwhile, most of the coal ash from the TVA spill was hauled to a dump in Perry County, Ala., studies have determined that coal ash does contaminate ground and surface water and the industries that create and use coal ash have expressed concerns about regulation stigmatizing their businesses, the cost of complying with regulation, and warnings about job losses.
To the contrary, a study projected an approximate 28,000 job gain should coal ash be regulated and the federal government estimates that $290 billion in healthcare costs could be saved if coal ash is regulated.
Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Should coal ash be regulated, or not?
Rhiannon Fionn, an independent journalist, aims to answer those questions during a nationwide tour where she’ll collect stories from all sides of the coal ash issue and share them here, on CoalAshChronicles.com. But, you don’t have to wait for her to come to you, you can share your story now — upload it here.
More than 25 percent of the chemical elements listed on the periodic table can be found in coal and coal ash.

More than 25 percent of the chemical elements listed on the periodic table can be found in coal and coal ash.