Supporters of the coal ash recycling industry said June 3 that a bill filed in the House of Representatives by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., would create the first-ever federal regulatory standards for coal ash disposal while allowing continued use of coal ash for beneficial uses.
McKinney has 35 bipartisan cosponsors for the bill, H.R. 2218 – the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013.
This bill began over two years ago as a one-paragraph provision to block EPA from designating coal ash as hazardous waste, according to a group called Citizens for Recycling First. After vigorous debate and input from many sectors, the bill now creates meaningful federal regulatory standards for coal ash disposal while resolving the regulatory uncertainty that is damaging recycling.
McKinley introduced the bill during a meeting of the Energy and Commerce Committee. The Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will mark it up later in the week.
“Currently, coal-fired power plants in 48 states create coal ash every day, but there are no federal standards for safe disposal of the material. One approach would designate coal ash as a hazardous material, which would prevent its use in everyday products and ultimately cost 316,000 jobs,” McKinley said. “Our approach sets minimum standards and gives the states flexibility to implement a disposal program that protects the environment and jobs.”
The subcommittee 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 June includes changes to earlier versions.
It 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. The bill also makes explicit how EPA could declare a state permit program deficient.
The bill also requires a periodic evaluation for appearance of structural weakness of coal ash dams. The bill also makes it clear that it does not lessen EPA authority to investigate and remediate sites under CERCLA.