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House Subcommittee Passes Bill Blocking Coal Ash 'Hazardous Waste' Designation

A U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on June 21 approved a bill that would prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating coal ash disposal as a “hazardous waste” while simultaneously directing states to enact enforceable permit programs.

 The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy approved HR 2273 – the “Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act.”  The bill is sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) and effectively replaces HR 1391, which Rep. McKinley filed in April. (See previous blog post here.)

 Rep. McKinley’s original bill simply blocked EPA from regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.  The new bill goes a step further and mandates a state-administered permit program to create enforceable requirements for groundwater monitoring, lining of landfills, corrective action when environmental damage occurs and structural criteria. HR 2273 also provides that if a state is unable or unwilling to implement the permit programs, the federal EPA would have authority to do so.

 “Since the very first hearing in this Subcommittee, regulation of CCRs (Coal Combustion Residuals) has been a topic of discussion,” said Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL).  “We learned early on that regulating CCRs as a hazardous waste, when these materials do not even meet EPAs own standard for toxicity, would have devastating effects on jobs and a very successful and emerging byproducts industry.”

 “One year ago, the Obama EPA put a big question mark over the coal ash recycling industry when it proposed to regulate coal ash under RCRA Subtitle C, which is a classification for hazardous materials. A consensus has formed that this idea goes too far and that the states are best suited to carry out coal ash regulations,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “In response to the clear need for a legislative fix, we engaged members and worked hard to develop a compromise bill, which finds an elegant solution that ensures coal ash will be handled responsibly, with states maintaining the primary role as they do with municipal solid waste.”

 The next step for the bill will be a hearing before the full Energy and Commerce Committee, which could occur during July.  If the bill is approved by the full committee, it will move to the House floor for a final vote.

 A complete copy of the new bill – HR 2273 – can be found here. For more information about the Subcommittee hearing, including complete copies of statements by Chairmen Upton and Shimkus, click here. For information about the previous bill, HR 1391, including a list of the 63 bipartisan co-sponsors it attracted, click here.

Posted by: on: Jun 29, 2011 @ 10:05