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Fri May 28, 2010 at 08:33 AM PDT

What's next for coal ash?

by Sue Sturgis

Disaster has pushed Washington to call for new standards for handling waste from coal-fired power plants. It's invited citizens to weigh in, but will their voices carry above lobbyists fighting tough regulations?

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Coal ash isn't just dumped; it's increasingly being recycled into building materials and other uses. But in states like North Carolina, the failure to adequately regulate one so-called "beneficial use" of the toxic-filled waste is putting communities at risk.

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After years of inaction, federal officials are mulling new regulations to confront the growing problem of coal ash. But energy companies have fought off regulation before, and they're fighting the new rules every step of the way.

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In December 2008, one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history unfolded at the TVA's Kingston coal plant when a massive coal ash holding pond burst. A year and a half later, communities are still feeling the impact -- and there are fears that without federal action a similar disaster could strike elsewhere.

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Coal ash is one of the country's biggest waste streams and is full of toxic substances, yet it remains virtually unregulated. Can Washington overcome the fierce opposition of energy interests to protect communities and the environment?

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The U.S. Senate passed a jobs bill yesterday that aims to tackle unemployment by providing tax incentives to businesses that hire jobless workers.

The measure passed with unusually strong Republican support -- but as with the recent Senate vote on extending unemployment benefits, many of those lawmakers who opposed the bill come from states with above-average unemployment rates.

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Cross-posted at Facing South.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech to the nation tonight from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in which he's expected to announce he's sending up to 35,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

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A column by Wesley Pruden that appeared in yesterday's Washington Times is generating anger and controversy because of its views on race and President Obama.

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(Cross-posted at Facing South)

The U.S. House of Representatives voted yesterday to cut off federal funds to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now or ACORN, a national grassroots group that advocates for poor and modest-income families. The House vote of 345 to 75 came three days after the Senate cut off Housing and Urban Development funding to the group.

But some of the same members of Congress who were quick to take action against ACORN have not been as responsive when other federal contractors have engaged in wrongdoing -- like Blackwater, the North Carolina-based private military company now known as Xe.

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(Originally cross-posted at Facing South)

During President Obama's address on health insurance reform to a joint session of Congress last night, he observed that some people have been spreading bad information about his proposal -- and that contrary to what's been said it would not cover illegal immigrants.

At that point the president was interrupted by Rep. Addison Graves "Joe" Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina.

"You lie!" Wilson shouted from the crowd.

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(Cross-posted at Facing South with photos.)

Year in which union workers in New York City took unpaid leave to march in the first U.S. Labor Day parade: 1882

Number of days following the end of 1894's bloody Pullman Strike that Congress, in an effort to improve strained relations with labor, passed a law making Labor Day a federal holiday: 6

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(Cross-posted at Facing South.)

To mark Labor Day this coming Monday, Massey Energy is holding a Friends of America Rally in Holden, W.V.

The event, which will be emceed by rocker Ted Nugent and will feature a speech by Fox News commentator Sean Hannity and musical performances by Hank Williams Jr. and John Rich, is billing itself as a rally for American jobs. It's expected to draw as many as 70,000 people to a former strip mine in the coalfields of southern West Virginia.

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