November 1, 2011

Toxic Coal Ash from We Energies Coal Plant Pours into Lake Michigan

For Immediate Release – November 1, 2011
Contacts: Kady McFadden, 630-747-0915
                  Tiffany Hartung, 231-747-7489
                   Sierra Club, Beyond Coal & Clean Energy Solutions                   Facebook:
                   Twitter: @BeyondCoalMI

Toxic Coal Ash from We Energies Coal Plant
Pours into Lake Michigan

Disastrous collapse comes just weeks after House votes against
strong coal ash protections – will Senators Stabenow and Levin
vote to protect Michigan Families?

LAKE MICHIGAN – A partial retaining bluff collapse Monday at the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant in Wisconsin sent toxic coal ash spewing into Lake Michigan. This collapse comes just weeks after the U.S. House voted to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from protecting Americans from coal ash.  The same weak bill is now before the U.S. Senate.

In response, Jean Gramlich, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair,  issued the following statement:

“The Environmental Protection Agency has been trying to enact national protections to stop this kind of disastrous spill from happening again, ever since the TVA disaster in 2008, and House Leadership has been blocking them every step of the way. As a result, communities here in Michigan and across the nation remain at risk and unprotected.

“This spill in the Great Lakes is a tragic reminder of why the status quo is not good enough. As long as politicians interfere, spills like this are going to happen, and communities right here in Michigan are at risk. Congress needs to back off and allow the EPA to finalize strong protections. 

“Coal ash is dangerous and toxic.  Though it’s currently treated as if it were household waste, coal ash contains mercury, arsenic, lead and other life-threatening toxins. 

“The Senate should immediately stop work on its bill to block the EPA from protecting Americans from toxic coal ash, and Senators Stabenow and Levin should urge the EPA to finalize its protections against toxic coal ash, which have been in the works since 2009.

 “We are very grateful that no one appears to have been injured in today’s spill, and our hearts go out to the residents of Southeast Wisconsin who have been victims of We Energies negligence for years. The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter also thanks the Wisconsin first responders, cleanup and safety workers for their courage in helping to clean up this mess.

“The burning of coal is a public health menace. This incident underscores that as long as we are still mining and burning coal someone somewhere is paying the price.”