Matthew Kaplan Photography

"Close the Coal Ash Loophole" - Chicago - 12/1/22

"In my community, 2,000,000 tons of toxic coal ash lie like a time bomb behind a crumbling sea wall at NIPSCO's Michigan City generating station" explained Ashley Williams of the environmental justice group, Just Transition Northwest Indiana. Williams displayed a glass jar filled with grey powder which she described as "a brew of lead, arsenic, mercury and other deadly toxins" that can cause "debilitating health conditions, or even death", in people exposed to high concentrations of the substance.

Coal ash is a by-product of coal fired electric power generation.

Folks from JTNWI, Illinois Green New Deal Coalition, local faith leaders and others, including Indiana state representative Pat Boy, met in Federal Plaza at noon on Thursday to hold a press conference about this dire peril, and deliver more than 2000 signed petitions to nearby EPA headquarters. The group called on the agency to fix a loop hole exempting from regulation more than 300 coal ash landfill sites in 38 states, including ones in Michigan City Indiana and Waukegan Illinois. According to JTNWI, current rules only regulate active landfills, not sites closed prior to 2015. Many of these legacy coal ash site are leaking toxins; contaminating drinking water and polluting adjacent lakes and streams.

"The two communities where this toxic coal ash sits are environmental justice communities, largely black, brown and low income" described Susan Thomas of JTNWi, referring to Waukegan and Michigan City. "We are asking the EPA to help us change the law to protect these communities and protect Lake Michigan".

"I'm here all the way from Michigan City to say it's time for NIPSCO to take accountability for their actions" said Pastor Jacarra Williams of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, focusing on the power company whose generating plant sits less than a half-mile from his church." We're coming together to demand they clean up what they're supposed to clean up. To make sure that our lake is still there for our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren!"

The petitions were delivered to Alfred Saucedo, chief of staff to Debra Shore of EPA Region 5.

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