The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

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September 10, 2010

Texans testify about coal-burning power plant ash

DALLAS (AP) — Hundreds of people showed up at a public hearing to take comments on whether ash from coal-burning power plants should be classified as hazardous waste.

On one side were environmentalists who said the change would protect water supplies; on the other were industry and state officials who insisted that current regulations are enough.

As the nation's largest coal-burning state, Texas also produces the most ash. The Dallas Morning News reported that Wednesday's hearing was one of seven the Environmental Protection Agency is holding across the country.

The EPA now typically labels coal ash as a special waste, which must be handled carefully. However, in May, the federal agency proposed changing its classification to hazardous, which would increase the amount regulation. The ash from burning coal contains heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury.

"These are not little known toxins," said Dr. Karen Lewis, a pediatrician and member of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Meanwhile Michael Brune, the Sierra Club's national executive director, asked the EPA to regulate coal ash as the hazardous and toxic waste his group believes it is.

But James Roewer, executive director of the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, disagreed.

"These are real regulations, with teeth," Roewer said, stressing that the current regulations are adequate.

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