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Richardson Asked to Stand Up for Tougher Coal Ash Rules

August 11, 2010

SANTA FE, N. M. - It's been over 18 months since more than a billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge was spilled in Tennessee. Now, a number of community and environmental groups in the region are urging New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to support the tougher of two versions of a proposed rule the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering to regulate coal ash.

Dan Lorimier, conservation coordinator for the Rio Grande Sierra Club, says Richardson's reputation as a leader on energy issues could go a long way with the EPA as it decides whether to leave coal ash regulation up to states or put a strong federal rule in place. The latter is what Lormier would like to see.

"It's a requirement; it levels the playing field between states and is a comprehensive regulation of the disposal of coal-combustion waste."

Opponents of a federal rule say it would increase the cost of power production, raising electrical rates and costing jobs. But Lorimier describes the coal ash present in New Mexico as a "toxic soup."

"These wastes contain high levels of arsenic; they can contain selenium, uranium, other heavy metals."

New Mexico ranks tenth in the nation for coal ash production, with 6.8 million tons produced annually by coal power plants in San Juan and McKinley counties. Lorimier says the Sierra Club hopes to hear a response from the Governor's office by week's end.

More information about the proposed coal ash rules is online at

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM