House panel to review legislative fix for EPA’s coal ash rule

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold a March 18 legislative hearing on a discussion draft of the “Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act of 2015.”

Authored by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., this bill is basically a legislative fix for a new coal combustion rule that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued this past December. It would incorporate EPA’s final coal ash rule from December, and would eliminate any issues associated with the final rule giving states the necessary authority to implement the standards set by EPA. The measure pretty much impacts every coal-fired power plant in the U.S. 

The draft legislation utilizes the framework from bills in past Congresses by setting up enforceable state permit programs, said a March 11 memo on the bill. Under it:

  • States will be authorized to immediately implement a coal ash permit program.
  • States will be able to choose whether to implement a permit program – if they opt not to, EPA will implement a permit program for that state.
  • States that choose to implement a permit program must include all of the requirements for a permit program as laid out in the legislation; states may choose to make their permit programs more protective than the minimum federal requirements.
  • EPA will have the ability to review a state permit program at any time to ensure that the permit program meets the minimum statutory requirements. The draft legislation uses EPA’s final rule to set the minimum statutory requirements for state permit programs.

The legislation in previous Congresses used the Municipal Solid Waste regulations under the Solid Waste Disposal Act as the basis for the minimum requirements for a coal ash permit program. The draft legislation takes into account that the technical requirements set forth by EPA in the final rule are protective of human health and the environment and should be the standard for regulating coal ash. The draft legislation incorporates the requirements in the final rule and uses them as the baseline for what must be included in a coal ash permit program.

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.