Last December, we wrote about new regulations put out by the Environmental Protection Agency which aim to control the amount of coal ash plants are able to release in the course of their operations. As we noted, the federal rule is the first ever to address coal ash.
Under the rule, coal ash ponds are supposed to conduct groundwater monitoring on a regular basis and ponds with high levels of coal ash are supposed to be shut down. We also pointed out that over twenty coal ash ponds are scattered throughout the state of Georgia, making the issue quite relevant here.
One interesting aspect of the EPA rule is that, because coal ash was not classified as a hazardous waste, the EPA is not responsible for enforcing the requirements. Rather, states have the option to adopt and enforce the rule, if they so wish. In states that do not adopt the rule, though, citizens are able to enforce the lawsuit through litigation.
Essentially, this means that private citizens may end up being responsible for pursuing rules implemented by the federal agency. Needless to say, it can be challenging for citizens to find the resources and assistance necessary to do so.
In one case, for instance, a Georgia woman attempted to sue Georgia Power for failing to address contamination issues with one of its coal ash ponds. She eventually dropped her lawsuit, though, when she was unable to prove where the uranium was coming from. Getting clear on the science is one of the challenges for citizens in pursuing this litigation.
Citizens who do end up attempting to sue under the new coal ash rule, or any other environmental law, should certainly not attempt to do so alone. Working with an experienced environmental law attorney is essential to make sure one puts together the strongest possible case.