Democrats criticize coal ash bill that is now up for House panel vote

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., on June 18 released a new Congressional Research Service analysis of coal ash legislation that is being considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“This analysis shows that this seriously flawed bill will leave public health and the environment unprotected,” said Waxman. “Congress should reject this ill-considered proposal.” 

“This legislation will preserve the status quo in the states, which is the wrong direction for our environmental policy,” said Tonko. “Vague language in H.R. 2218 leaves the application of this legislation too open to interpretation, and provides no assurance of safety to the communities located near these facilities. It is my hope that the committee will reconsider their path forward and work to establish a law that protects public health.”

According to the Congressional Research Service, H.R. 2218 deviates from other federal laws in the following ways:

  • fails to contain any minimum federal requirement to protect health and the environment;
  • fails to establish minimum national safeguards;
  • fails to establish federal backstop authority; and
  • fails to define what facilities the bill applies to.

The committee was due to convene late on June 18 for markup opening statements only for four bills, including the ash bill. It will reconvene on June 19 to markup the legislation.

GOP-backed bill would hand coal ash regulation off to willing states

This bill would encourage recovery and beneficial use of coal combustion residuals (CCRs) by removing the option for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal combustion residuals under Subtitle C of the Solid Waste Disposal Act, said a memo from the Republican majority on the committee. The bill also establishes requirements for the management and disposal of coal combustion residuals that are protective of human health and the environment.

The bill would provide states with the option of establishing coal ash permit programs that meet the specific standards set out in the bill, or to choose to allow the EPA to administer a permit program for that state. states would be required to notify EPA within six months of enactment whether or not they intend to implement their own CCR permit program. Within three years, the states would be required to provide EPA details of the laws, regulations, and other features of their permit programs.

If a state declines to implement its own permit program or, after notice and comment, EPA determines that a state’s program falls short of the minimum standards in this bill, then EPA would take steps to implement a permit program for that state. If a state corrects a deficiency noted by EPA or chooses to take back its own permit program, the bill provides a mechanism by which a state may do so. The bill also sets out specific criteria for EPA to make a determination regarding whether a state permit program is deficient.

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.