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Improved Coal Ash Legislation Filed in U.S. House

A bill filed in the U.S House of Representatives on June 3, 2013, would create the first-ever federal regulatory standards for coal ash disposal while simultaneously creating the regulatory certainty needed to re-energize coal ash recycling in America.

 HR 2218 – the ‘‘Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013’’ – filed by Congressman David McKinley (R-WV) and 35 bipartisan co-sponsors – is an example of what the legislative process can do to solve problems. This bill began over two years ago as a simple one-paragraph provision to block EPA from designating coal ash as hazardous waste. After vigorous debate and input from every sector, the bill now creates meaningful federal regulatory standards for coal ash disposal while resolving the regulatory uncertainty that is damaging recycling.

 EPA has been unable to complete coal ash disposal regulations for more than 30 years because the law as now written does not allow for a balance between federal accountability and a system that encourages recycling. This bill fixes that problem and gets effective disposal regulations in place years before EPA could hope to do so.

 The Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy resumed work on the coal ash legislation in a hearing on April 11.  At that hearing, a representative of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicated that the agency would not oppose the legislation based on the language of last year’s Senate Bill (S 3512) and was willing to work with committee members to seek several clarifications. The bill filed on June 3 includes the following changes to earlier versions:

 ·   Adds a deadline for States to issue permits and requires that owners/operators comply with certain requirements (beyond just groundwater monitoring) in the interim period until permits are issued;

·          ·   Makes explicit the criteria by which EPA can assess whether a State permit program is deficient;

·          ·   Requires a periodic evaluation for appearances of structural weakness and requires consultation between the implementing agency and the State dam safety officials;

·          ·   Addresses issues at closed facilities by clarifying that nothing in the bill impacts authority to investigate and remediate the sites under CERCLA;

·          ·   Clarifies that a closure plan must provide for closure as soon as practicable; and

·          ·   Requires an emergency action plan to be prepared for high hazard structures and requires that, if a potentially hazardous condition is identified, immediate action be taken to mitigate the condition.

 The bill is patterned after regulations for municipal solid waste disposal and would establish the first ever national regulatory standards for coal ash disposal. It would create enforceable national regulations under Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and avoid any designation of coal ash as “hazardous waste.”

 A House Energy and Commerce Committee news release about the bill is available here. The full text of HR 2218 is here and a summary is here.

Posted by: on: Jun 03, 2013 @ 08:21