House may consider coal ash bill the week of July 15

House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Members Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., sent a July 8 letter to the Assistant Administrator of the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Mathy Stanislaus, to request a response to previous inquiries on coal ash legislation. 

During an April 11 Environment and the Economy Subcommittee hearing on the coal ash legislation, Stanislaus offered 18 times to provide the committee with additional information, but to date, EPA has failed to do so, wrote the House Democrats. They want an answer soon, since the full House is expected to consider the coal ash legislation during the week of July 15.

On April 11, the subcommittee looked at a discussion draft that was an outgrowth of H.R. 2273, which passed the House in the last Congress. The text of the discussion draft was introduced in the Senate in the last Congress as S. 3512 with 12 Republican and 12 Democratic cosponsors.

The discussion draft adopted the same approach as H.R. 2273, but contained several significant changes, particularly in the details of the minimum requirements set out in the bill. Both bills would establish a new approach to environmental regulation by amending the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) to authorize states to adopt and implement coal combustion residuals permit programs that include the minimum requirements set out in the legislation.

Stanislaus said in prepared testimony for the April 11 hearing: “The Discussion Draft of the Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act appears to establish a framework for the management of [coal combustion residuals] CCRs. The documented damages associated with the mismanagement of CCRs support the need for action to address those risks. We support the development, implementation, and enforcement of appropriate standards for facilities managing coal ash, while encouraging the beneficial use of this economically important material. The proper management of CCRs should include clear requirements that address the risks associated with the coal ash disposal and management, consideration of the best science and data available, adequate evaluation of structural integrity, protective solutions for existing as well as new facilities, and appropriate public information and comment.”

Coal-fired power plant operators support this legislation, since it short-circuits a possible U.S. Environmental Protection Agency move to classify coal ash as a toxic waste, adding vastly to disposal costs and probably constituting a decision tipping point that forces the shutdown of more coal-fired power plants across the U.S.

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.