File Under: The Bones Of History – Obama’s Secret Coal Dumps
Administration turns down senator’s request to make public the list of 44 dumps, which contain arsenic and metals
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
A rift has opened between the Obama administration and some of its closest allies – Democratic leaders and environmental organisations – over its refusal to publicly disclose the location of 44 coal ash dumps that have been officially designated as a “high hazard” to local populations.
The administration turned down a request from a powerful Democratic senator to make public the list of 44 dumps, which contain a toxic soup of arsenic and heavy metals from coal-fired electricity plants, citing terrorism fears.
The refusal has put the Obama administration at odds with some of its strongest supporters over an emerging area of environmental concern in America.
Last Christmas, a retaining wall burst on a coal ash pond in Tennessee disgorging a billion gallons of waste and putting pressure on the authorities to bring in safety controls over the management of some 600 similar waste pools dotted across the country.
Some 44 of the most dangerous coal ash dumps are known to be located in populated areas in 26 separate locations. The high hazard designation means that a breach, like the one in Tennessee, could cause death and significant property damage if the sludge spills into surrounding neigbourhoods. But that is all the adminstration will disclose.
“Right now we have a blanket gag order,” Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who heads the Senate environment and public works committee told a press conference last week.
“We are losing what we cherish in America: the citizens’ right to know.”