Charlotte, Duke, consider airport coal ash plan
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CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) -- Charlotte officials and Duke Energy are still considering Charlotte Douglas International Airport as a site for millions of tons of coal ash now at Mountain Island Lake.

The Charlotte Observer reported that a city committee said Monday that Duke is considering the city's counterproposal to the company's original idea of putting ash under the runways.

It's unclear where the ash might go.

An assistant city manager said he hopes to have a recommendation next month. He said the city has not asked Duke what alternative it is considering besides the airport plan.

City officials have looked at sites for the ash north and south of the airport's westernmost runway. Charlotte Douglas owns the land, but it is not used as part of the airfield.

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It's time to tax coal ash so coal burners are motivated to recycle and use technology to eliminate coal ash entirely. Let's say a tax of $10 per ton of coal ash is levied on every coal-fired plant in the US. With 140,000,000 tons of coal ash per year being produced, about 90,000,000 million tons is being buried and stored for later disposal (fill), while the rest (about 45,000,000 tons) is being used in concrete and other products. Do the math. 90 million tons per year generates 900 million dollars of tax that can be used to clean up the mess that's being made by the current coal ash disposal. Duh, why can't energy companies, the EPA and politicians figure this out?

Here's the plan. All coal ash produced by US coal-burning energy plants will be taxed at a rate of $10 per ton. At the rate of 140,000,000 tons per year generated in the US, the coal ash tax potentially generates $1.4 billion per year that would be held in an environment cleanup trust fund, controlled by publicly elected representatives living in communities near coal ash disposal sites, much like your mayors and sheriffs. If the coal ash disposal site is located within a flood plain or near a waterway, the coal tax would be doubled to a rate of $20 per ton.

Motivators to escape the coal ash tax are simple. First, the coal ash tax is waived on ash that is recycled for building materials, which currently averages 40% at typical US coal-fired plants. Of the 140,000,000 tons currently produced each year in the US, about 56,000,000 tons are reused in building materials. That brings the
Coal Ash Tax Trust Fund (let's call it the CATT Fund) down to an annual potential of $840,000,000 for the coal ash that's being disposed in landfills. But if a landfill or holding area (e.g., pond) is on a flood plain or within 500 yards of a waterway, an additional tax of $10 per ton is levied on ash disposed in those sites. For round
numbers, let's assume the CATT Fund will collect $1 billion in taxes annually for the mix of disposal sites.

At a $1 billion in taxes, one would think energy companies will be motivated to eliminate coal ash altogether. Their second option is to apply a technology that was developed, tested and is being implemented by the US Department of Defense. A very-high-temperature process known as plasma-arc waste destruction is currently being installed on the next-generation of US Navy aircraft carriers. These plasma-arc systems can be optimized for a variety of waste streams. For coal ash, a plasma-arc system can be packaged to eliminate 98% of the coal ash currently being buried in landfills. That's roughly 82,000,000 tons of coal ash that can be kept out of your waterways and nearby landfills.

So what do you do with the remaining 2,000,000 tons that's left each year? Using plasma technology, it becomes a glassy like material that is an inert binder of minerals that traps traces of formerly toxic residuals, which can also be used for building materials. There's even a young, enterprising genius in Baltimore who wants to collect it to make synthetic granite countertops. But there are dozens of other potential and high-value uses, particularly if you are a ceramics engineer who can add certain ingredients to the molten glass as it pours out of the coal plant's plasma system.

The third motivator for energy companies using coal-fired plants is research and development derived from a 10% portion of the CATT Fund. Qualified companies would be able to propose R&D projects that achieve greater efficiencies in coal ash
elimination or improve processes, such as systems that extract synthetic gas from
the coal ash that can drive a turbine generator - - and produce more electricity! If a company's coal ash elimination R&D project is successfully demonstrated and implemented, that company would be reimbursed from the CATT R&D Fund.

In summary, neither energy companies nor their electricity customers would have to pay a cent of coal ash tax if all of the coal ash is reused for building materials, eliminated with technology such as plasma systems, or converted to energy with yet-discovered processes via CATT Fund.

So how do we as citizens put the Coal Ash Tax on our November ballots? It's probably too late in most towns. But if you're serious about a Coal Ash Tax that would inspire energy companies to keep your water and land clean, there's a way to make it happen. Vote for the candidates who pledge to support the coal ash tax - - but make them draft the legislation before the elections so you can read it and you know they're serious about starting the effort on their first day in office. You must establish the carrott and stick first to hold politicians and energy companies accountable to the people they serve and service.

Beware of the political candidate who tells you a coal ash tax is not the solution; this means they don't have a plan to stop coal ash from being buried in your backyards, and it means they don't have a clue about harnessing existing technology to eliminate coal ash. Your vote for the right candidate could begin to eliminate all the coal ash in your community during that candidate's term. In a few years, coal ash could be something we had to live with before American voters got involved.