A new report by the environmental group Sierra Club says at least three coal-fired power plants in Wyoming discharge pollution containing metals into streams. According to the report, some plants do not monitor how much waste they discharge or what it contains.
The Environmental Protection Agency says coal plants nationwide contribute more than half of the toxic pollutants discharged to water bodies by regulated industry, but discharge standards have not been updated since 1982.
Dirty water from the oil wells flows through oil-caked pipes into a settling pit where trucks vacuum off the oil. A net covers the pit to keep out birds and other wildlife. Streams of this wastewater flow through the reservation and join natural creeks and rivers.
The Environmental Protection Agency is taking public comments on the extension of several water discharge permits on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
The EPA is looking at renewing existing permits that allow companies to pump waste water from oil and gas fields to the surface on the Reservation. The produced water exemption allows this practice only in the arid West. In general, state agencies have tighter regulations than the EPA about what can be pumped to the surface, but tribal land is under the EPA’s jurisdiction.
The Sierra Club and partner organizations filed a lawsuit today against BNSF Railways and several coal producers. The suit claims the companies are violating the federal Clean Water Act when they discharge coal dust along railways from the Powder River Basin without permits to do so.
Pacific Northwest Regional Press Secretary for Sierra Club’ Beyond Coal campaign, Krista Collard, says a letter of intent to file the suit was sent to all parties two months ago, but they did little to limit coal dust pollution.