Citizens for Recycling First Testifies Before Congress

            Citizens for Recycling First testified before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on May 12 that regulatory uncertainty created by federal environmental regulators is harming coal ash recycling activities today.

            The House Small Business Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Regulations invited Citizens for Recycling First to address the topic: “Green Isn't Always Gold: Are EPA Regulations Harming Small Businesses?” Citizens Chairman John Ward described to the subcommittee how thousands of small businesses that recycle coal ash are being affected by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency coal ash disposal rulemaking process that appears to be taking years to resolve.

            “In the case of EPA’s coal ash regulations, the Agency’s actions are not only ‘not gold,’ they are not very ‘green’ either,” Ward testified. “In the Agency’s single-minded quest to gain more enforcement authority over the disposal of coal ash, EPA appears resolved to ignore the negative impacts of its actions on an entire recycling industry and the small businesses that comprise it.  If EPA succeeds in getting the regulations it wants, our nation will end up putting hundreds of millions of tons more material into landfills rather than safely recycling it – hardly a ‘green’ result.”

            Ward criticized the EPA for raising the specter of a “hazardous waste” designation for coal ash, but then failing to resolve the issue in a timely way. “A year ago, EPA formally proposed labeling coal ash as ‘hazardous waste’ when it is disposed,” said Ward. “When the idea was confronted by a wall of opposition from all manner of other government agencies, academicians, recyclers, coal ash users and more, the EPA responded by simply slowing the process down.  EPA officials have been quoted as saying it may now be 2013 before the Agency gets around to proposing a final rule.  In the meantime, the coal ash recycling industry is twisting in the wind with the unresolved question: ‘Will it be hazardous waste or not?’”

            Ward told the committee that coal ash does not qualify as a “hazardous waste” based on its toxicity and that the EPA’s proposals for improving coal ash landfills are the same under both its “hazardous” and “non-hazardous” approaches.  “Landfills won't be any stronger or better under EPA’s Subtitle C proposal – nor do they need to be,” said Ward. “But coal ash recyclers will be saddled with a hazardous waste stigma that will make continued recycling of this resource difficult or impossible.”

            The Citizens for Recycling First testimony outlined several ways that EPA’s proposal is already hurting coal ash recycling even in advance of any regulations being finalized.  The testimony also described how EPA has ignored the concerns of small businesses and recyclers in pursuing its proposals.

            “Perhaps the reason EPA has turned a deaf ear to the concerns of small business recyclers of coal ash is that this debate is not about coal ash at all.  It may be all about coal,” said Ward.  “EPA has launched a multi-pronged attack against every level of coal production and use. The Agency is aggressively pursuing new regulations on mining, increased standards for emissions, entirely new regulations on greenhouse gases and more.  Draconian coal ash disposal regulations fit within that overall picture.”

Ward urged committee members to support HR 1391, a bill that was recently filed by Representative David McKinley to prohibit EPA from regulating coal ash as a “hazardous waste.”  Ward said the bill would not prevent EPA from moving forward with improving coal ash disposal regulations.  Under the ‘non-hazardous’ regulatory approach also proposed by EPA, the engineering standards for coal ash disposal facilities would be essentially the same as under the ‘hazardous’ approach.  Wet impoundments would still effectively be phased out and dry landfill standards would be improved.  Additionally, the improvements would get implemented much sooner under the non-hazardous approach.

For more information about the Small Business Committee’s hearing, click here:

A video playback of the hearing can be seen here (with Ward’s oral testimony beginning at the 14:40 mark.)

For a complete copy of the Citizens for Recycling First written testimony, click here:

Posted by: on: May 12, 2011 @ 08:10