(photo: Rosspilot copyright 2010)
While the closing of Mirant's Lovett Plant in Tomkins Cove. NY and the demolition of one of the oldest and dirtiest coal burning plants in the entire Hudson Valley and Eastern United States is a great step forward for reducing carbon emissions into our atmosphere, the loss of town and school tax revenue has sent local taxes through the roof for North Rockland residents. Now, as we learn of the pending sale of Mirant to yet another international energy company, Stony Point residents are concerned about what Mirant might leave behind -- a toxic brownfield of coal ash, oil and other chemicals that remains buried onsite as well as lingering questions of liability for disposal and remediation. The public wants to know: Who will take responsibility for clean-up of the property?
This 60 Minutes documentary that ran on Sunday, August 15, shows an energy lobbyist claiming that "coal ash is as safe as dirt." However, the fact is that toxic substances contained in coal ash, including arsenic, raise several safety concerns for Tomkins Cove neighbors who drink well water and are unsure about how these toxins might affect the groundwater quality, their family's long-term health, the contamination of the Hudson River -- as well as the added economic impacts that this pollution could have for local taxpayers and on potential uses of the commercial property for any clean tax ratables that the town might attract in the future.
We, the public, subsidize the costs of energy generation when we allow coal burning plants to dump coal ash waste onsite and avoid the costs of proper disposal or when we allow nuclear power plants like Indian Point to store spent nuclear fuel rods on its property, which raises the risk of radiation leaks and insurance liability of potential accidents. While the coal industry claims of the "cheap" cost of burning coal is efficient, it has devastated the mining towns in West Virginia, where mountain top mining has both ruined the natural landscape and polluted drinking water. Now, Stony Point continues to subsidize the "cheap" cost of burning coal by having coal ash, a potential "ticking time bomb" buried onsite at the Tomkins Cove Lovett property, while questions linger about if or when the town or the NYS DEC will ever require the toxins to be removed. More info here
The 60 Minutes segment mentions that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reluctant to classify coal ash as a "toxic substance." While the states are responsible to oversee the coal ash containment or removal, there is no clear plan or responsibility for how communities like Stony Point will be protected from international energy corporations that decide to close shop and "go south" while leaving us with the mess. The 60 minutes piece highlights the coal ash spill disaster in Kingston, TN in December 2008, which only increases our concerns about the tons of buried coal ash at the Tomkins Cove Lovett facility and if it might become displaced into the nearby Hudson River or adjacent waterways or groundwater in the future.
The EPA is currently holding a public comment period on the question of whether or not it should classify coal ash as a toxic waste or classify it as household waste? This decision could have a tremendous impact on how communities, like Stony Point, can protect itself, both from these environmental and economic costs that are passed along to its residents by huge utility companies like Mirant.
Where are our Town of Stony Point, Rockland County Legislature, NYS State Legislature and US Congressional reps on this important issue?
George Potanovic, Jr.
August 17, 2010
Stony Point Action Committee for the Environment