The federal government has set up a task force to find more than 150 million acres of unclaimed coal ash from the American West, a new report says.
The land has been designated for the Appalachian National Preserve, but it’s unclear if the government will continue to do so after the ash is removed, said Mark Buehner, president of the Southern Environmental Law Center, a nonprofit that filed the new report.
The report is based on an analysis of coal mines in five states that were designated as priority sites in the U.S. Department of Interior’s Appalachian Resources Assessment, which includes coal ash mining in Kentucky, Tennessee, Tennessee and Virginia.
The coal ash is deposited on state lands and in streams and ponds, and is usually located close to rivers and streams.
Buehert said the task force, known as a coal assessment team, is a critical step in identifying the ash’s location and whether it should be returned.
“It is an essential step in locating the coal ash and, as it is found, determining where to return it,” he said.
The task force also needs to collect the remaining coal ash, which is likely to be around 1.5 million acres, Buehler said.
“We don’t know what the extent of that coal ash will be,” he added.
The Associated Press is covering the coal-ash issue.
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