House passes coal ash bill that would give authority to the states

The U.S. House of Representatives on July 25 approved H.R. 2218, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, by a vote of 265 to 155.

Sponsored by Rep. David McKinley, R-W. Va., the legislation would create a state-based program that sets enforceable federal standards for coal ash. More liberal Democrats have condemned the bill as giving away too much authority to the states, with some coal-state Democrats aligning with Republicans to pass the bill.

The bill is a product of two-and-a-half years of negotiations with stakeholders, the states, the Senate, and the administration. It is a workable solution to coal ash regulation and provides an alternative to EPA’s 2010 proposal to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste, which put hundreds of thousands of jobs in jeopardy and threatened to drive up electricity and construction costs, said House Republicans.

“After countless hearings, meetings, and amendments we come here with a solution,” said McKinley. “If we don’t act decisively, Congress will once again kick the can down the road. That would mean the status quo continues.”

Edison Electric Institute (EEI) President Tom Kuhn said in a July 25 statement: “EEI congratulates the House on the strong bipartisan passage of H.R. 2218 to resolve the regulatory uncertainty surrounding coal ash disposal. This legislation will ensure that coal ash is managed properly and in an environmentally protective way, while preserving the beneficial uses of coal ash on which many good American jobs depend.”

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) on July 25 also applauded passage of the bill, which establishes a non-hazardous regulatory framework for coal combustion residuals (CCR).

“Electric cooperatives appreciate the bipartisan approach taken by the House to advance H.R. 2218. This legislation thoughtfully balances state-based permitting and an EPA-based environmental framework,” said Kirk Johnson, Senior Vice-President of Government Relations at NRECA. “It recognizes the beneficial re-uses of CCR. Approximately 45 percent of overall electric utility CCRs are used in gypsum wallboard, concrete and other practical applications. Managing CCR under a non-hazardous framework helps ensure that the jobs and tax revenue created from the reuse of CCR will continue benefitting our economy. We encourage the Senate to follow suit and pass this common sense legislation.”

The Senate, with a Democratic majority, will be more of an uphill battle for this bill, though once again coal-state Democrats are likely to support it.

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.