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For Immediate Release: Jul 01, 2010
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

EPA FALSE CLAIMS OF GREENHOUSE GAS SAVINGS FROM COAL ASH

Complaint Filed to Delete Inaccurate Statements from EPA Website and Publications


Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency routinely makes the false claim that putting coal combustion wastes into consumer and commercial products actually reduces generation of greenhouse gases associated with climate change. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) today filed a complaint against the agency demanding that numerous inaccurate statements touting the greenhouse gas benefits of coal ash be removed from the EPA website and publications.

EPA has a formal promotional partnership with the coal industry to expand use of coal ash and other coal combustion wastes in products such as cement, wallboard, carpet backing and consumer products such as kitchen counters and even cosmetics and toothpaste. As part of this campaign, EPA repeatedly represents that using coal ash reduces greenhouse gas emissions because it substitutes for virgin materials.

One huge fallacy is that EPA claims generally omit any mention of the massive amounts of greenhouse gases emitted in mining and burning the coal to produce the ash. Many of the EPA assertions are made without reference sources, methodology or qualification. Occasionally the agency inserts a footnote that it makes the highly questionable assumption that coal ash is carbon neutral for purposes of its claims.

“Coal is our biggest source of greenhouse gases. It is the height of absurdity to contend that the toxic wastes produced by coal combustion help our atmosphere,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that EPA recently suspended the coal ash promotion campaign (called the Coal Combustion Product Partnership or C2P2) while it considers whether to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste.

The PEER complaint is filed under the Data Quality Act which requires that materials distributed or relied upon by federal agencies be accurate, complete and unbiased. In addition to the central flaw mentioned above, the PEER complaint cites the fact that EPA’s coal ash claims –

  • Violate its own guidelines published for calculating lifecycle emissions;
  • Bury its own conclusion that coal ash use “may not be an efficient method for reducing overall emissions” of greenhouse gases and may in fact be a net detriment; and
  • Are internally inconsistent and usually are un-sourced.

EPA has 90 days to respond to the complaint. If it rejects the complaint, PEER may file an administrative appeal forcing the formation of a three-member executive panel to review the matter. The decision by that review panel is final.

“EPA is guilty of false advertising. Using taxpayer dollars to mislead the public adds insult to the injury,” added Ruch. “EPA should purge this nonsense from its website now.”

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Read the PEER Data Quality Complaint

Look at a typical example of an inaccurate EPA claim of GHG savings from coal ash

View how “beneficial reuse” of coal ash looms over current regulatory debate