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Legislative action must prevent unfair exploitation
Letter to the Editor generic


Coal ash is the toxic residue produced when burning coal, which has accumulated in vast and dangerous quantities at many older power-plants. 

House Bill 756 proposes requiring the disposal of coal ash in lined landfills. Such disposal is already mandated for household garbage under state and federal law. Requirements for these “Subtitle D” landfills include groundwater monitoring wells and leachate collection systems to minimize the risk of contamination.

To improve HB756, we suggest an amendment providing legal authority to local governments so they have the option of restricting the amount of coal ash being ‘dumped’ at landfills within their jurisdictions.

For years, the Center for a Sustainable Coast has repeatedly warned about the risks of turning south Georgia into ‘sacrifice-zones’ where corporate-owned operations profit by depositing toxic materials, including coal ash, exported from widespread urban centers. 

Above all, we must prohibit propagation of toxic hazards, such as the “Superfund Sites” that already plague too many communities in Georgia. The disproportionate, unfair health risks imposed by such hazards on economically challenged populations cannot be justified and must not be tolerated. 

In the case of coal ash, local governments lured by the promise of new jobs and “free” or low-cost waste-disposal may commit to landfill contracts that lock them into a regrettable future that makes their communities a target for the toxic-waste-handling industry. 

Note that environmental hazards are worsened by rising sea-level and other impacts of climate change.

One way to prevent such troublesome exploitation would be to add local controls and rigorous evaluation requirements in HB756 that would protect cities and counties from becoming high-risk sacrifice zones.

Due to federal commerce law, under the provisions envisioned, cities and counties may not be able to completely reject unwanted waste, but they could limit the amounts imported, reducing their burden of environmental hazards.

 David Kyler, Center for a Sustainable Coast

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