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Environment

Bill proposed to regulate coal ash

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - On the heels of a major U.S. coal ash spill, a lawmaker has introduced legislation on Wednesday that would regulate the disposal of some wastes from coal-fired power plants.

The legislation, proposed by House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, would set federal standards for the design, construction and upkeep of coal ash impoundments.

Rahall’s bill follows the collapse of an earthen dike at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston coal-fired power plant in December, spilling coal ash across as much as 400 acres.

The ash, left from decades of coal burning, had been stored in a sludge pond. The spill extended into a waterway, blocked a road, and ruined three homes, according to the TVA.

A second, smaller coal ash spill occurred earlier this month at TVA’s Widows Creek power plant in northeast Alabama.

“It is impossible to write off the disaster in Tennessee as a freak accident,” Rahall said in a statement.

“The absence of national standards for coal ash has resulted in environmental damage and threats to human health throughout the country - not just last month, or last year, but for decades, and as far as we know this may be just the tip of the iceberg,” he added.

The measure includes regulations that would require applications for coal ash impoundments to conduct an investigation to determine the design specifications necessary for stability.

Design plans would also have to be reviewed by a geologist or an engineer and regular inspections by qualified engineers of these structures.

Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Christian Wiessner

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