FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 23, 2015

Contact:

  • Anne Hedges, MEIC, (406) 461-9546
  • Derf Johnson, MEIC, (406) 581-4634

Zinke Votes For Toxic Coal Ash Bill, Removing Safeguards for Montana’s Water

Helena, MT – On Wednesday, July 22nd, Congressman Ryan Zinke voted in favor of a bill that removes, weakens, and delays critical safety protections established in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s long-awaited and first-ever national coal ash rule. H.R. 1734 passed by a vote of 258 to 166, but has been threatened with a veto by the Obama administration.

Coal ash is the byproduct of burning coal for electricity. The ash contains heavy metals and toxics that are hazardous to human health and the environment. Disposal of coal ash is currently inadequately regulated by the state of Montana. The new federal rule establishes minimum safeguards for the protection of human health and the environment. It is intended to provide, for the first time ever, transparency and basic protections for people across the country, including in Montana. Coal ash disposal has resulted in contamination of drinking water, toxic dust, and caused catastrophic failure of coal ash impoundments across the United States.

In Montana, the unsafe disposal of coal ash at Colstrip has resulted in thousands of acres of groundwater pollution from 800 acres of leaking impoundments. The contamination of groundwater at Colstrip is so extensive that in 2008 it resulted in a $25 million settlement between the operators of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant and local residents. A subsequent lawsuit was also filed and settled between the plant owners and neighboring landowners. The amount of that settlement was not disclosed. Neither of these settlements resulted in any money going toward actual cleanup of the contaminated ground and surface waters.

“Despite severe groundwater pollution at Colstrip, Zinke voted with large corporations who continue to pollute groundwater and put Montanans at risk instead of Montana citizens and taxpayers,” stated Anne Hedges, Deputy Director of the Montana Environmental Information Center. “This bill is an attack on transparency and minimum protections for Montana’s clean water. Representative Zinke should be working to protect Montana’s waters, not out of state corporations that have polluted our waters for decades.”

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Colstrip Ash Ponds

Over 800 acres of coal ash impoundments at Colstrip, Montana have contaminated thousands of acres of ground and surface water. Photo (c) Kestrel Aerial Services, Inc.

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