Washington, DC U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today made the following remarks following the public release of a list of 44 coal-ash waste sites in 10 states that have been identified as presenting a “high hazard.” A “high hazard” rating means that a coal ash site is located in such a way that if it were to fail, it would pose a threat to human life. The 10 states represented on the list are Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.  

Senator Boxer said: “I want to commend the Obama Administration for releasing the list of high hazard coal ash waste sites, given the critical importance of the public’s right to know about threats in their communities.  I called on the Administration to release the list of these high hazard sites so that people have the information they need to quickly press for action to make these sites safer.  One of the lessons we all learned from the TVA coal ash spill is that a close look at these waste sites is extremely important.  The Environment and Public Works Committee will continue its investigation of these coal ash waste impoundments, and as part of our oversight, I plan to conduct additional hearings on this issue.” 

In the aftermath of the December 22, 2008 coal ash spill in Kingston, TN, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee immediately held an oversight hearing to better understand the incident and how to avoid similar disasters in the future.   When EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson came before the EPW Committee for her confirmation hearing on January 14, 2009, she committed to move immediately to address the threat posed by coal ash waste across the country.   

Since then, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been conducting an assessment of the status of coal combustion waste storage facilities nationwide. To date, EPA has identified hundreds of coal ash waste facilities, including 44 sites classified as “high hazard.” Coal combustion waste is subject to very limited regulation – in fact, there are stronger protections for household garbage than for coal ash waste.  These sites can contain dangerous toxins, including arsenic, selenium, cadmium and chromium, among others.  # # #