Coal Tattoo

Some coalfield politicians, including West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, are quick to point to supposed “beneficial uses” of toxic coal ash, when they attack federal government efforts to more closely regulate coal-fired power plant waste.

We’ve written before regarding questions about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s promotion of “beneficial uses” and the close ties between those EPA efforts and industry lobby groups (see posts here and here).

Now this week, a report from the EPA’s own Inspector General has some criticism of the agency’s actions regarding a Web site promoting “beneficial uses”:

EPA’s C2P2 Website presented an incomplete picture regarding actual damage and potential risks that can result from large-scale placement of CCRs. In its May 2010 proposed rule, EPA showed that environmental risks and damage can be associated with the large-scale placement of unencapsulated CCRs. According to EPA’s proposed rule, unencapsulated use of CCRs may result in environmental contamination, such as leaching of heavy metals into drinking water sources. The proposed rule identified seven cases involving large-scale placement, under the guise of beneficial use, of unencapsulated CCRs, in which damage to human health or the environment had been demonstrated. EPA states in its proposed rule that it does not consider large-scale placement of CCRs as representing beneficial use. However, EPA’s C2P2 Website, which contained general risk information, did not disclose this EPA decision and did not make the seven damage cases readily accessible.

The C2P2 Website also contained material that gave the appearance that EPA endorses commercial products. Such an endorsement is prohibited by EPA ethics policies and communications guidelines. We identified 9 of 23 case studies on the Website that reference commercial products made with CCRs or patented business technologies. All 23 of the studies were marked with EPA’s official logo but none had the required disclaimer stating that EPA does not endorse the commercial products.

Although EPA has suspended active participation in C2P2 during the rulemaking process, the C2P2 Website remained available for public searches, information, and education. The C2P2 Website contained incomplete risk information on the beneficial use of CCRs. The C2P2 Website also contained apparent or implied EPA endorsements that are prohibited by EPA policies.