Aug 26, 2019

Toxic ash at risk of spreading as Trump's EPA seeks to dismantle protections

Coal power plant. Credit: VanderWolf-Images/Getty Images

An analysis from Politico found that over 100 sites storing toxic ash from coal-burning power plants are located in areas that federal emergency managers warn have a high risk of flooding.

Why it matters: Coal ash is a multibillion-dollar liability, and scientists warn that increased rain brought on by a warming climate could worsen the threat by spreading the substance into neighboring communities. The findings come as the Trump administration is looking to reverse an Obama-era regulation seeking to prevent coal-ash disasters.

  • Toxins in coal ash such as lead, arsenic, mercury and other contaminants have the potential to cause severe illnesses, including neurological damage and cancer. Officials have also warned that government-sanctioned flood maps already likely understate the potential of deluges in most of the U.S.
  • The trouble goes further, Politico notes: "Scientists say the heavier rains expected to come from a warming planet also threaten to bring a more hidden peril — rising water tables that seep into the ash impoundments, contaminating groundwater used for agriculture and drinking."

Between the lines: An Obama-era regulation limited eligible locations for storage, required utilities to track groundwater pollution near sites and provided incentives for utilities to install protective liners in their storage ponds. The Environmental Protection Agency under Trump is now moving to weaken regulations, including by "letting states waive some cleanup requirements, exclude certain contaminants from pollution programs and suspend groundwater monitoring," per Politico.

  • But, but, but: Scientists and environmentalists note that even the Obama regulations didn't fully address climate change's role in the toxic waste threat.

Go deeper: Trump's EPA swaps Obama's biggest climate policy for narrow rule

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Trump says he will campaign against Lisa Murkowski after her support for Mattis

Trump with Barr and Meadows outside St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. on June 1. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Thursday that he would endorse "any candidate" with a pulse who runs against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Driving the news: Murkowski said on Thursday that she supported former defense secretary James Mattis' condemnation of Trump over his response to protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing. She described Mattis' statement as "true, honest, necessary and overdue," Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports.

4 hours ago - World

The president vs. the Pentagon

Trump visits Mattis and the Pentagon in 2018. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

Over the course of just a few hours, President Trump was rebuffed by the Secretary of Defense over his call for troops in the streets and accused by James Mattis, his former Pentagon chief, of trampling the Constitution for political gain.

Why it matters: Current and former leaders of the U.S. military are drawing a line over Trump's demand for a militarized response to the protests and unrest that have swept the country over the killing of George Floyd by police.

New York Times says Tom Cotton op-ed did not meet standards

Photo: Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A New York Times spokesperson said in a statement Thursday that the paper will be changing its editorial board processes after a Wednesday op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), which called for President Trump to "send in the troops" in order to quell violent protests, failed to meet its standards.

Why it matters: The shift comes after Times employees began a coordinated movement on social media on Wednesday and Thursday that argued that publishing the op-ed put black staff in danger. Cotton wrote that Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act in order to deploy the U.S. military against rioters that have overwhelmed police forces in cities across the country.