In the last few weeks, my personal inbox has been filled with pledge requests from the Sierra Club. My financial support is needed to fund their continued effort to ban fly ash. Their requests have referenced two landfill discharges of fly ash into waterways.
In their 2/8/2014 note, titled Spilling, dumping, polluting…this has to stop”, the writer labeled fly ash as one of the nation’s most serious environmental dangers. And in follow-up emails, I’ve been urged to contact the president and ask him to honor his word, and support the classification of fly ash as a hazardous waste.
You can expect this sort of rhetoric to increase in the next few weeks. Like frustrated coaches who want to blame a referee’s “poor” call for a loss, Sierra Club staffers need to explain to their membership why their version of science isn’t standing up to scrutiny. The normally compliant associates at EPA are not following the Sierra Club’s demand to ban fly ash.
In the last few weeks, good science has been recognized.
First there was the release of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study that reconfirms the environmental safety of using Coal Combustion Products (“CCP”) in two prominent applications. EPA’s new study concludes the use of coal fly ash in concrete and synthetic gypsum in wallboard are safe and appropriate beneficial uses.
And second, as the agency also moved to conclude a protracted coal ash disposal rulemaking that created regulatory uncertainty for many ash users. The agency has established a Dec. 19, 2014, deadline to finalize ash disposal rules. According to the American Coal Ash Association, the EPA and has strongly signaled that those rules will avoid any “hazardous waste” designation.
These positive indications come at an important time for our industry. In 2013, fly ash use in concrete was at its lowest level in many decades. Coal power plant operators, uncertain of the EPA’s final ruling, weren’t interested in investing in fly ash beneficiating operations. And some specifiers expressed concern about the potential liability on using fly ash as an ingredient in projects.
But the battle to adopt good science is far from over. Environmental groups can easily focus members’ attention on side issues that can further delay rulings. Everyday this uncertainty exists, our industry’s long-term financial future is put at risk.
I urge you to monitor ACAA’s efforts to promote good science. And as always, it’s important to promote the importance of fly ash use to your customers, employees, and local community leaders. For example, The American Road and Transportation Builders Association estimates use of coal fly ash in concrete roads and bridges saves highway builders more than $5 billion per year.
To learn more, visit ACAA’s web site at www.acaa-usa.org.