Bill to aid coal waste disposal clears U.S. House and Senate

The Republican majority on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee said Dec. 12 that the House and now the U.S. Senate have both approved and sent to the president the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, a comprehensive water resources infrastructure bill.

Several Energy and Commerce Committee provisions were part of the WIIN Act, including language that addresses control of coal combustion residuals (coal ash), an effort long championed by Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) and committee member Rep. David McKinley (R-WV).

The bill as it relates to CCRs:

  • Provides for the establishment of state and federal EPA permit programs for coal combustion residuals;
  • Provides flexibility for states to incorporate the EPA final rule for coal combustion residuals or develop other criteria that are at least as protective as the final rule; and
  • Requires EPA to approve state permit programs within 180 days of a state submitting a program for approval.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) on Dec. 8 applauded House passage of this bill and urged its quick adoption by the Senate.

“The WIIN Act will help electric co-ops provide affordable, reliable electricity to rural America by authorizing and promoting infrastructure projects pertaining to hydropower, flood control, water supply and emergency management,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson. “The bill also injects greatly needed certainty into the regulation of coal ash by giving states clear permitting and enforcement authority and reducing litigation, while providing for its continued beneficial use. We greatly appreciate the commitment and tireless effort of the House and Senate lawmakers who made reaching a deal on these provisions possible and encourage the Senate to vote on the measure without delay.”

In April 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a rule to establish federal requirements for the management of coal combustion residuals, or “coal ash,” as a non-hazardous waste. NRECA supported EPA’s decision to regulate coal ash in this manner, but has sought legislation to codify the agency’s decision and give states clear enforcement authority. The coal ash provisions included in the WIIN Act would provide that clear enforcement authority.

Edison Electric Institute (EEI) President Tom Kuhn said in a Dec. 10 statement about the bill: “EEI commends members of the House and Senate for their efforts to complete the WIIN legislation, which contains critically important provisions for the safe management of coal ash. As the EPA’s coal ash regulation goes into effect and our industry begins to close coal ash basins, these legislative provisions will enable states to be more involved in the permitting process for the closure of basins. Permanently closing basins in a manner that puts safety first, protects the environment, and minimizes impacts to communities and customers is vitally important to the electric power industry. We look forward to the President signing the bill into law and to working with the Administration and Congress as the provisions in the legislation are implemented.”

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.