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Congressional Committee Considers Measure to Block ‘Hazardous” Label

            A House of Representatives subcommittee has heard testimony regarding proposed legislation that would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from labeling coal ash as “hazardous waste.”

On April 14, 2011, the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy held a hearing entitled: “Fossil Fuel Combustion Waste Regulation.”  The subcommittee scheduled the hearing to discuss bills filed a week earlier by Representative David McKinley (R-WV) and Representative Bob Latta (R-OH) that would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from designating coal ash a "hazardous waste" under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. (The bills would not prevent EPA from improving ash disposal standards under the agency’s already proposed non-hazardous regulatory approach, which calls for the same landfill improvements and gets them implemented faster.)

For more information about the bills that were filed, click here: http://www.recyclingfirst.org/blog/?post=98

Dozens of organizations, including Citizens for Recycling First, have already endorsed the bills because they address the negative impact EPA’s “hazardous waste” proposal is already having on coal ash recycling.  EPA has indicated that it does not plan to finalize its new coal ash disposal regulations before 2012 or possibly even longer.  The proposed bills would resolve the regulatory uncertainty surrounding the potential “hazardous” label while allowing EPA to continue finalizing its new rules for coal ash landfills and wet impoundments.

“When EPA proposed a potential ‘hazardous waste’ designation for coal ash a year ago, the Agency cast a cloud over our recycling effort that has already caused coal ash users across the nation to decrease their specification and use of the resource,” said Thomas H. Adams, executive director of the American Coal Ash Association in his testimony. “Simply put, people do not want to undertake the potential liabilities or risks of using a material that would be considered ‘hazardous waste’ on the property of the people who produced it. Now it appears that EPA does not intend to finalize its proceedings for many more months or possibly years. Mr. Chairman, we have members who may not survive the wait.”

Mr. Adams also reviewed the numerous benefits associated with using coal ash rather than disposing it.  He said that “in the decade from 1999 to 2009, our nation successfully recycled 519 million tons of coal ash – some 38 percent of the 1. 35 billion tons of coal ash produced. We decreased greenhouse gas emissions by more than 138 million tons during that period through the use of fly ash in concrete products. In 2009 the recycling rate for coal combustion products was 44 percent.”

Other witnesses at the hearing pointed out serious flaws in EPA’s approach to regulating coal ash disposal.

Ari S. Lewis, a toxicologist with Gradient corporation testified that “under typical existing waste disposal practices, CCPs are not associated with an elevated health risk.” She also concluded that “there is very little public health benefit to be derived from regulating CCPs as hazardous waste” and “regulation of CCPs as hazardous waste (RCRA Subtitle C) by US EPA lacks a sound scientific basis and is not warranted.”

Dawn Santoianni, a senior engineer with Veritas Economic Consulting, testified that the incremental cost to utilities of regulating coal ash disposal as a “hazardous waste” over a 20-year period is between $54.66 billion and $76.84 billion – much higher than EPA’s estimate of $20.35 billion.  She also indicated that “the full economic impact of the proposed regulation would be borne not just by the coal-fired electric generating industry, but also by the CCR beneficial use industry, consumers of products made from CCRs, and electricity customers. Thus, a thorough benefit-cost analysis should include the economic impact to the beneficial use industry, as well as impacts to energy supply, electricity prices, and electric reliability.”

Mary T. Zdanowicz, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials, testified that there are numerous reasons a “hazardous waste” designation for coal ash is opposed by state environmental regulatory officials across the country. “First and foremost, there is insufficient scientific data to designate CCRs as hazardous. The impact on landfill disposal capacity and State waste program resources of regulating the second largest waste stream in the country under Subtitle C should not be underestimated. The impacts that some States would experience are far-reaching and would be disruptive in multiple ways. Even using optimistic assumptions about continuing beneficial use and on-site disposal, at least 22 million tons of CCR would have to be disposed off-site. Current EPA and State estimates of the available capacity for hazardous waste is less than 35 million tons, meaning the hazardous waste capacity in this country would be consumed in less than 2 years. Furthermore, the stigma of such a designation will impair beneficial use.”

 Complete copies of the hearing testimony are available here: http://www.recyclingfirst.org/pdfs.php?cat=6 or on the House subcommittee web site here:  http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearings/hearingdetail.aspx?NewsID=8474

            A video playback of the hearing is available on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGAgGMjfZz4


Posted by: on: Apr 19, 2011 @ 05:38