Friday, June 08, 2012

Environmental Groups to ECOS: Why is Your Coal Waste Panel So Pro-Industry?

June 7, 2012

By Electronic Mail

R. Steven Brown
Environmental Council of States
50 F. Street NW Suite 530
Washington, DC 20001

Re: Balance Needed on the Coal Ash Panel at 2012 State Environmental Protection Meeting

Dear Mr. Brown:

We are writing to respectfully express our concern about the coal ash panel discussion (“Ensuring Proper Management and Beneficial Reuse of Coal Ash”) planned for the June 8, 2012 meeting of the Environmental Council of States (ECOS). The panel fails to include any representative from national or state environmental or public health organizations, from communities adversely affected by coal ash, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), or from any organization that might present a point of view supportive of federally enforceable standards. We understand the importance of hearing the coal industry’s point of view regarding the proposed regulation of the waste they generate, but we also believe it is a disservice to state environmental commissioners to hear only one side of this important debate. It is also a disservice to American taxpayers whose dollars account for a majority of the ECOS budget.

The unbalanced nature of this panel is extremely troublesome for it implies that not all points of view are welcome at a conference intended to address the most pressing regulatory and enforcement issues currently facing state environmental agencies. Invited participants on the coal ash panel include the lead lobbyist for the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group (USWAG),1 the Majority’s chief counsel for the House Environment and the Economy Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which recently passed a bill to prohibit an EPA coal ash rulemaking, and other speakers who have made clear their opposition to any federally enforceable standards for coal ash. When the omission of public interest sector perspective was noticed, a representative was suggested but ECOS declined to expand the panel.

ECOS is a nonprofit organization representing state agencies. The USEPA provided nearly 75% of the organization’s budget in 2010, according to your annual report.2 A nonprofit organization representing

1 USWAG consists of approximately 80 utilities, energy companies and trade associations and is responsible for addressing solid and hazardous waste issues on behalf of the utility industry.
2 Environmental Council of the States, Annual Report and Almanac, June 2011. Available at In addition, another approximately 10% of the
budget is supplied by states.

state agencies that is supported by federal tax dollars ought to be open to all points of view. In accordance with being primarily publicly funded, your mission statement includes the essential role of ECOS as “provid[ing] for the exchange of ideas … among states and with others,”3 The stage you provide should thus be inclusive of all points of view.

Further, despite ECOS being publicly funded, your website identifies the Edison Electric Institute and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) among the industry “supporters” of this week’s conference.4 ACCCE is made up of over 30 of the largest corporations in the electricity generation, transportation and coal production sectors. While that may have nothing to do with the fact that representatives from these organizations appear on the conference agenda, along with the power industry’s coal ash lobbyist, it creates an appearance problem, at the very least.

The power industry has made clear its determination to make it as difficult as possible for the USEPA to establish any health-protective standards for coal ash. When the occasion next arises, we hope you will make room on your agenda for those who vehemently disagree.

Respectfully, Deborah Sease
National Campaign Director
Sierra Club

Scott Slesinger
Legislative Director
Natural Resources Defense Council

Abbie Dillen
Coal Program Director

Catherine Thomasson, MD Executive Director
Physicians for Social Responsibility

Eric Schaeffer Executive Director Environmental Integrity Project

Frank O’Donnell
Clean Air Watch

cc: ECOS Executive Committee

3 See ECOS mission statement at
4 See

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