Coal Ash Bill Passes House with Broad, Bipartisan Support

Legislation that would create the first national coal ash disposal regulations passed the U.S. House of Representatives with the support of 39 Democrats, 279 diverse industry trade associations and individual companies, and a positive statement from the Obama White House.

HR 2218, the “Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013,” passed the House on July 25, 2013, by a vote of 265-155. Sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R‐WV) and 54 co‐sponsors, the bill attracted yes votes from 39 Democrats from urban and rural districts in 21 states.

The bill also enjoyed widespread support from people who use coal ash in recycling applications. Nearly 300 associations and companies signed this letter in support of the bill. Numerous associations and labor unions were also active on Capitol Hill seeking support.

The bill also received a boost in a “Statement of Administration Policy” issued by the White House that did not oppose the bill. “The Administration appreciates the efforts by Members of the House to improve previous coal combustion residual management bills,” the statement said. “The Administration would like to work with Congress to address the important issues with H.R. 2218 to allow for development, implementation, and enforcement of appropriate standards for facilities managing coal combustion residuals, while encouraging the beneficial use of this economically important material.” A copy of the White House statement is here.

HR 2218 is based on bipartisan legislation that nearly passed Congress last year, but includes several key revisions to clarify the scope and intent of national coal ash disposal regulations that would be created by the bill. 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.”

The potential “hazardous waste” designation became an issue in 2009 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency raised it as one of three options for regulating coal ash. EPA has recently signaled that it is moving away from the “hazardous waste” option, but the Agency has no deadline to act and its now four and a half year rulemaking process has no end in sight. Enactment of HR 2218 would definitively end the regulatory uncertainty that has been harming coal ash recycling.

The U.S. Senate is expected to begin action on the coal ash bill when Congress returns from its summer recess after Labor Day.

Posted by: on: Aug 04, 2013 @ 08:13