House passes bill that would give utilities a break on coal ash

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., on April 18 applauded the passage of H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, which has an industry-friendly provision in it about disposal of coal ash from power plants.

Upton said the legislation passed with two key provisions from the Energy and Commerce Committee: requiring approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada; and providing for the safe management and reuse of coal ash.

“Today, the House took a stand for jobs and affordable energy,” Upton said. “For too long, President Obama’s policies have put American jobs, our economy, and our energy security at risk. Today, we tell the president enough is enough. If he won’t lead, Congress will. The legislation we passed today will protect thousands of jobs from the administration’s dangerous overreach, prevent higher energy costs, and put our nation on a path toward greater energy security.”

Upton praised the work of Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.: “Congressman McKinley has been a champion throughout the 112th Congress to ensure coal ash is safely and responsibly managed without sacrificing jobs,” Upton said. “Mr. McKinley provided a commonsense alternative that will protect the environment, jobs, and energy affordability. Just like when the bill passed the House, today’s amendment received strong bipartisan support – this time advancing by voice vote – demonstrating a strong likelihood we could see this job-saving measure become law.”

The congressional website shows the bill passed April 18 on a 293-127 vote, and that it includes a grab-bag of mostly transportation-related provisions. McKinley inserted the entire text of a separate bill, H.R. 2273, into it during the floor debate. The key question now is whether this provision can survive a Senate vote and any conference committee on the transportation bill.

The original bill inserted by McKinley, who represents the nation’s second biggest coal producing state, is called the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act. It would among things amend the Solid Waste Disposal Act to authorize states to adopt and implement coal combustion residuals permit programs. It requires each state governor to notify the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency within six months about whether that state will implement such a program. The measure establishes minimum requirements for coal combustion residuals permit programs. It applies to landfills, surface impoundments, or other land-based units that may receive coal combustion residuals.

EPA in 2010 proposed two options for coal combustion residual disposal and is expected to come out with a final version later this year. One of the options would classify it as a toxic waste, which would impose a tremendous extra cost on the coal-fired power industry and might propel further shutdowns of existing coal-fired capacity.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.