Citizen groups urge Senate not to pass coal-ash bill

More than 300 public interest groups representing millions of citizens from 43 states sent a letter Sept. 14 to the U.S. Senate opposing S.3512, the “Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act of 2012.”

The bill, introduced this summer by Sens. John Hoeven, R-S.D., Kent Conrad, D-S.D., and Max Baucus, D-Mont., prevents the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from finalizing a long-delayed coal ash rule that would adopt one of two proposed approaches to crack down on coal ash disposal at coal-fired power plants nationwide. “S. 3512 not only obstructs the EPA from doing its job, the legislation encourages inadequate state programs that preserve the status quo and extend the lives of hundreds of leaking toxic dumps,” said a Sept. 14 statement from Earthjustice about the letter.

“This flawed bill fails to mitigate the risk of another human health and environmental disaster and leaves our water sources open to contamination with dangerous heavy metals. While claiming to be a solution to our coal pollution problem, this bill is merely a giveaway to industry that will hurt the health and well being of millions of Americans,” the letter states.

Coal-burning utilities produce about 140 million tons of toxic coal ash each year, containing millions of pounds of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and more, the groups said. S. 3512 not only obstructs the EPA from doing its job, it also encourages inadequate state programs that preserve the status quo and extend the lives of hundreds of leaking toxic dumps, the groups claimed.

An Aug. 2 statement from the sponsors of the bill said that it “provides strong state oversight for storage and management of coal residuals, while empowering industry to safely recycle it into useful and less-expensive construction materials. It takes a states-first approach that provides regulatory certainty for industry, local control for the states, and good environmental stewardship for the public.”

The bill would enable states to set up their own permitting programs, but they must be based on federal standards for the management, disposal and oversight of coal ash in order to protect human health and the environment, the sponsors said.

The congressional website shows that the current status of the bill is that it has been read twice and referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

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.