House to Consider Coal Ash Bill

(Electric Co-op Today 06-24-2013) For the second time in less than three years, an NRECA-backed bill regulating coal ash impoundments at power plants is headed to the House floor. Supporter’s hope a bill in Congress will allow continued recycling of coal ash into building materials, such as bricks made at this Wisconsin plant. The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 31-16 on June 20 for a measure that sets up a new state-run program to manage and dispose of coal ash.
The legislation comes more than three years after the Environmental Protection Agency said it might consider applying federal hazardous waste regulations to facilities that store coal ash, a common byproduct of coal-based plants.
Republicans, backed by some Democrats, said it was time to end the uncertainty about a hazardous waste designation, so coal ash can continue to be recycled for construction materials and other purposes.
“We think the states are up to this and they are clamoring for it,” said Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill.Kirk Johnson, senior vice president of government relations for NRECA, said co-ops will work hard for the bill on the House floor and in the Senate. With bipartisan support, the House passed a similar bill in October 2011, but it died of inaction in the Senate. The 2013 version also has endorsements from representatives of both parties.
“This legislation strikes an appropriate balance between state-based permitting and an EPA-based environmental framework,” Johnson said. “Managing coal combustion residuals as a non-hazardous waste helps ensure that the jobs and tax revenue created from the reuse of CCR will continue benefiting our economy.”
Coal ash legislation was a major focus of this year’s NRECA Legislative Conference, as participants from around the country met with legislators and their staffs about the lingering issue.
Sponsored by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013 gives state agencies the lead role in setting standards for coal ash facilities. State could pass the program on to EPA, if they desire.
On party-line votes, the committee rejected several Democratic attempts to add what opponents called “subjective” standards aimed at public health and the environment. Several Democrats supported the final bill.
“EPA has still failed to act,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., “Right now, what we have is no regulation.”
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