Environmental Protection Agency, Virtual Public Hearing on the Coal Ash Rule, Testimony of Fran Teplitz, Director of Green America’s Green Business Network, January 7, 2020

Submitted by Mary Meade on January 7, 2020
Google Earth. Duke Energy coal ash pits; areas in red have no lining, potentially allowing the release of toxic chemicals.

On January 7th at 11:30am, Fran Teplitz, the director of the Green Business Network at Green America, testified at the EPA's virtual public hearing on the Coal Ash Rule that the agency is working to weaken. It is imperative that this rule is not weakened in order to protect people, businesses, and the planet. Below is Teplitz's full testimony.

Good morning. My name is Fran Teplitz and I serve as the director of Green America’s Green Business Network. We are based in Washington, DC and our nearly 3,000 business members are located across the United States.  Green Business Network member companies are dedicated to building an economy that respects and supports the needs of people as well as the natural environment. We believe that long-term prosperity can only be ensured when the economy works for both people and the planet. Through their operations, supply chains, products and services our business members, across dozens of industry sectors, work to protect workers, customers, communities, and environmental resources.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today at the EPA’s virtual hearing on proposed measures to weaken and delay crucial protections for human and environmental health from toxic coal ash. First, I must note that the EPA is remiss in not providing in-person hearings as the law requires. In-person testimony is a more powerful and effective way to receive public comment and I strongly urge the EPA to return to the in-person hearing format, as legally mandated, to receive public feedback.

On behalf of the Green Business Network, I speak to oppose any weakening of the 2015 rule on the disposal of coal ash by electric utilities and independent power producers. The sound, long-term business case for protecting workers, communities, and the environment has been amply made. We can no longer afford short-sighted companies seeking to maximize their own immediate profit at the expense of society. This scenario does not lead to the long-term viability of companies, a healthy workforce, and broad-based prosperity.

We need the EPA to do the job it was created to do – protecting public and environmental health. The EPA’s responsibility is to ensure we have clean water, clean air, and an environment that is not awash in toxic waste. Weakening the 2015 Coal Ash Rule runs counter to the EPA’s purpose; moreover the rule has already been upheld in federal court.

We need to make polluters pay for clean-up and safeguards – rather than have people pay the cost of pollution with their health, with their lives. Shockingly, more than 95% of coal ash ponds in the U.S. are unlined and therefore a major threat to groundwater contamination. Coal ash contains many carcinogens, neurotoxins and other poisons linked to cancer, brain damage in children, heart disease and other illnesses. It cannot be considered in the best interest of utilities, or our national economy, to ruin human health and ecosystem health. There is ultimately a profound cost that society pays. Unfortunately, people are now paying a terrible price needlessly, when we have a scientific understanding of the problem and ways to stop contamination from coal ash.

Triple bottom line companies -- working for positive economic, social, and environmental goals -- exemplify the direction and commitment utilities need to take on coal ash.

The 2015 Coal Ash Rule, grounded in more than half a million public comments, has been making many positive contributions to addressing coal ash contamination. These contributions include increased public information, inspections, dust control plans, identification of leaking coal ash ponds and those in dangerous locations that must close, and identification of sites in need of clean-up.

It is unconscionable and counter to the well-being of our communities and economy to delay the closure of leaking, unlined ponds; to delay the closure of ponds at power plants that are shutting down; or to delay the closure of unlined ponds as well as the clean-up of ponds at power plants that are no longer operational.

In closing, the EPA should build on the 2015 Coal Ash Rule, strengthening its provisions, rather than under-cutting its purpose and effectiveness.

Thank you for listening and I look forward to hearing how the EPA's current proposals will be amended.

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