How are our representatives protecting our state? Two amendments concerning coal ash produced by coal-burning power plants have recently come up for vote in Washington. Basically, Amendment 10 - offered by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla. - and Amendment 217 - offered by David McKinley, R-W.Va. - would severely weaken the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste material.
As of Feb. 22, the House voted for this, but the Senate had not. Our lone S.C. congressman who thought this legislation was a bad thing was James Clyburn, D-S.C. The others who voted yes on the amendments were S.C. Republicans Tim Scott, Jeff Duncan, Trey Gowdy, Mick Mulvaney and Addison "Joe" Wilson.
The reasoning behind this is hard to see. It is a known fact that coal ash contains a multitude of carcinogens and other disease causing toxins, including mercury, selenium, lead and chromium. Indeed, due to this sort of pollution, the Department of Health and Environmental Control has posted warnings concerning the consumption of fish, such as bluegill and largemouth bass, taken from many of our local waterways.
About 600 coal-burning plants operate in our country. Nationwide, they produce an estimated 140 million tons of coal ash, enough to fill a train stretching across the U.S. several times over. If our government does not have the spine to make a national move toward alternative energy sources, should they not at least have the integrity to ensure our safety?
Very shortly, the Senate will vote on these amendments. I urge anyone who thinks this is an important issue to contact your representatives in Washington and persuade them to vote against these amendments and for the health of South Carolina's environment and the people that live within it. Apparently, if we don't speak up for ourselves, neither will our elected officials.
The writer lives in Conway.