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EPA Holds Coal Ash Hearing In Louisville

Representatives of the coal industry, environmental groups, religious organizations and others gathered at Louisville's Seelbach Hotel Tuesday for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency public hearing on the proposed federal regulation of coal ash. The substance, a byproduct of coal burning, mostly at power plants, is currently regulated by states.The EPA is gathering input on two regulatory proposals, the more stringent of which would classify coal ash as hazardous material.Among those testifying against the tougher rules was longtime coal industry worker Bill Disney. He says too much regulation will derail efforts to recycle coal ash."The fact remains that the coal industry is safer than ever, the air in Kentucky is cleaner than any other time in our lifetime. The thinly veiled attacks on the fossil fuels industry are not based on science," he said.Environmental groups say coal ash, which contains toxic heavy metals, is a public health hazard that needs to be placed under stricter controls.Aloma Dew of Owensboro spoke on behalf of the Sierra Club:"Our children's health is far more important than the profit margin of industries that pile up this toxic waste. It's time to get the arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, selenium and other toxic chemicals away from our drinking water sources, away from the air our children breathe and the areas where they live and play," she said.Greenpeace made its position known in a dramatic way. Two rapellers unfrurled a giant banner on the front of the Seelbach Hotel (pictured at top), where the hearing was held. They were later taken into police custody and the banner was removed.                          The daylong hearing was the seventh to be held across the country. The eighth and final hearing will be held in Knoxville, Tennessee, near the site of a massive coal waste spill two years ago.

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." Email Rick at rhowlett@lpm.org.