Several environmental groups are trying to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from transferring oversight of the disposal of toxic coal ash to state regulators in Oklahoma.
The group Earthjustice filed a lawsuit this week in federal court in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Oklahoma-based Local Environmental Action Demanded agency.
“Time and time again, politicians in Oklahoma have chosen to ignore the health and safety of their own citizens. We fought hard to win a court ruling that rightly bans unlined coal ash ponds from continuing to operate, yet Oklahoma allows those dangerous ponds to do just that. Every single one of the coal ash dump sites that were tested in Oklahoma was found to have toxic chemicals from coal ash in nearby groundwater. It’s clear we need stronger protections from the hazardous chemicals in coal ash, not weaker ones. EPA’s decision to transfer oversight over Oklahoma’s coal ash dumps to DEQ not only violates the law, it puts Oklahoma families at risk,” said Jennifer Cassel, attorney with Earthjustice.
The groups allege the EPA unlawfully approved Oklahoma's state coal ash program that allows "unsafe impoundments full of toxic coal ash" to continue operating.
An EPA spokeswoman says the agency doesn't comment on pending legislation.
The gray ash left behind when coal is burned contains toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead and mercury.
Earthjustice says it conducted an analysis of groundwater data from Oklahoma that shows contamination at four Oklahoma coal ash dump sites.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.