Coal ash never ceases to amaze: despite being radioactive and loaded with mercury, not only does the EPA claim it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, its use in construction is also a source of LEED credits in green building. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is calling for those credits to be revoked in the upcoming revision process of LEED standards by the U.S. Green Building Council, a process for which the first public comment period ends this week. A second will begin in July.
Coal ash, the second-largest waste stream in the country (debris from coal mining is first), is currently recycled into products you'd never expect, from wallboard inside your home to school running tracks to indoor carpets to roofing shingles to fertilizer.
"LEED now gives green credit for what is an ultimately brown act - putting coal ash into our homes, schools, and office buildings," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the coal ash market constitutes a multi-billion dollar subsidy to coal-fired power. "If coal power generators had to responsibly handle their wastes, coal would not be so much cheaper than solar and other renewable power sources."
PEER is looking for changes in both building and interior construction ratings. Ruch added, "This LEED revision process presents an opportunity to reconsider the wisdom of embedding coal ash throughout our indoor environment."
More on coal emissions and coal ash
EPA Issues New Rules for Mercury Emissions from the Country's Third-Largest Source
Coal's Other Major Pollutant: Mercury
EPA Claiming Coal Ash Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions