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It took some arm-twisting, but finally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is scheduling a hearing on proposed changes in the classification of coal ash in the area.
The Knoxville hearing, announced by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander Wednesday, is reasonably close to the site of the 2008 ash spill at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant — one of the nation’s biggest environmental disasters. Alexander, who did much of the arm-twisting, had asked for a hearing in Kingston.
At issue is whether the ashy residue from burning coal should be considered a “special” hazardous waste requiring more oversight and regulation. Industry representatives have said self-oversight is sufficient.
Of the original seven hearings announced by the EPA on Aug. 19, the nearest would have been in Louisville, Ky., or Charlotte, N.C. —each about a five-hour drive for most Roane County residents.
The others were in Denver, Dallas, Chicago. Pittsburgh. Little Rock, Ark., and Arlington, Va. The Arlington hearing kicked things off in late August.
Knoxville will be the last of the EPA hearings, and although no official date and location has been set, the EPA says it will be in the last full week of October.
We appreciate Alexander’s help on this issue, and heartily agree with his comment in a statement he released Wednesday:
“Having hearings on coal ash without asking Tennesseans what they think would be like having hearings on Katrina without asking people in New Orleans what they think, or on the oil spill without asking people who live on the Gulf what they think.”
We also appreciate the efforts of the groups that helped move the issue forward by — in absence of an EPA hearing set in the area — a hearing of their own at Roane State Community College last week.
Their voices, already heard once on the matter, will likely ring again in a broader forum.