News Tip: Next EPA Chief Should Prioritize Coal Ash, Toxic Chemicals, Emissions

Nicholas School Dean Bill Chameides urges confirmation of Gina McCarthy

If Gina McCarthy is confirmed as the new head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, three action items -- coal ash, toxic substances and power plant emissions -- should move to the front of her "to-do" list, says a Duke University scientist. President Obama nominated McCarthy, formerly EPA's assistant administrator in charge of air and radiation, to lead the agency in March. William Chameides Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment, Nicholas Professor of the Environment, Duke University Chameides, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is an expert on global, regional and urban-scale environmental change; causes, impacts, and paths toward sustainable development. Quotes: "It's time for the EPA to get off the fence and designate coal ash as a hazardous material, rather than maintain its status quo as non-hazardous waste subject only to state laws. "The EPA has promised action on coal ash since the waning days of the Clinton presidency, but instead we get one delay after another, while research study after research study adds to the body of evidence showing the harmful effects coal ash has on the environment. "Working with Congress to reform the outdated Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) should likewise be a priority for McCarthy. TSCA no longer provides adequate protection from chemical risks in the products we buy. An estimated 80,000 chemicals are circulating in the market these days, but only nine are regulated as hazardous. That can’t be right. "A national poll last year found that three out of four small-business owners support a move to require manufacturers to prove their chemicals are safe, so business is already on board. "EPA should also take the plunge and propose carbon dioxide emissions rules for existing power plants. Such rules will force closure or significant refits for the nation's dirtiest and least-efficient plants and, ultimately, wean the country off coal-fired power plants without carbon capture and storage capabilities."                                    _        _        _        _ Duke experts on a variety of other topics can be found at