Statement: PennEnvironment files suit against EPA for Trump-era power plant pollution safeguards rollback

Media Contacts

PA’s Conemaugh power plant attempting to use weakened protections to avoid putting safety liner at the facility’s coal fly ash holding pond


PITTSBURGHEarthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of PennEnvironment and partners at the Sierra Club and the Alliance for Affordable Energy Thursday challenging toxic pollution exemptions for how power plants dispose of coal ash waste. This lax regulation is a holdover rollback from the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency. The suit specifically challenges a November 2020 rule that permits utility companies to request an exemption that would allow their dangerous coal fly ash ponds to go without a protective plastic liner indefinitely

Pennsylvania’s Conemaugh Generating Station, located outside of Johnstown, is one of the eight power plants across the country that applied for the exemption. The company is trying to use the Trump-era policy to avoid a court-ordered closure of the plant’s coal ash pond.  

PennEnvironment’s Executive Director David Masur released the following statement: 

“PennEnvironment is excited to join our partners at Earthjustice, Sierra Club and the Alliance for Affordable Energy in filing this important environmental lawsuit. 

“From cradle-to-grave, we know that our reliance on dirty fossil fuels put the health of our communities, families and planet at risk. 

“And while many Americans are less familiar with the threat posed by millions of tons of toxic coal ash created at dirty power plants across the nation each year, it’s just one more negative effect of our toxic, dangerous coal-fired power plants. Often laced with arsenic, lead, mercury and chromium, coal fly ash has a tendency to leak, spill or flood into nearby groundwater sources, or rivers and streams. 

It’s unacceptable that the owners of the Conemaugh power plant would attempt to use this rule to avoid implementing much-needed and commonsense safeguards for our environment and local communities’ health. 

“We believe that  the case we are filing today will begin to address this pressing problem, and we are also relieved that the Biden administration has indicated that they will review this rollback. However, we call on the new administration to go one step further and reverse this rollback and other coal waste policies implemented by the Trump administration, which weaken basic protections from this dangerous pollution source.”


PennEnvironment is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. For more information, visit