Senators Push for Final Coal Ash Solid Waste Rule

Date: June 10, 2011

Source: News Room

A bipartisan group of Senators is urging the Obama administration to regulate coal ash as a subtitle D waste, arguing that further delays are hurting the beneficial reuse market for those materials. Many in the industry have argued that the beneficial reuse market has evaporated over uncertainty over the lingering proposal. EPA last year proposed a rule seeking comment on regulating coal ash either as solid waste under RCRA subtitle D or as hazardous waste under subtitle C, after a protracted interagency battle over the agency's preferred approach to propose only hazardous waste rules. The agency had originally intended to finalize the rule this year but now lists no time frame for a final rule, according to the Unified Regulatory Agenda.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, and Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, sent a letter May 26 signed by 42 other senators calling on President Obama to swiftly regulate coal ash as a subtitle D solid waste because regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste under RCRA subtitle C would eliminate the beneficial reuse market. The market for coal ash reuse has been declining ever since EPA announced it would begin its rulemaking shortly after a major coal ash spill from a surface impoundment dam in Tennessee in December 2008, the letter says.

"Since the EPA first signaled its possible intention to regulate [coal combustion residues (CCRs)] under subtitle C, financial institutions have withheld financing for projects using CCRs, and some end-users have balked at using CCRs in their products until the outcome of the EPA's proposed rulemaking is known," the letter says. "Already, beneficial use of CCRs has decreased, and landfill disposal has increased. This result is counterproductive but likely to continue as long as the present regulatory uncertainty persists."

The letter has fairly broad bipartisan support having been signed by 12 Democrats and 32 Republicans. A number of those Democrats also sit on the powerful Appropriations Committee, including Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Others signing the letter include Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and commerce committee Chairman John Rockefeller (D-WV).


PRESS RELEASE
May 26, 2011

Conrad Wants Coal Ash Ruled Non-Hazardous

  • Senator Fights EPA's Proposed Rule, Works to Protect North Dakota Jobs

Washington Senator Kent Conrad today urged President Obama to quickly finalize an Administration rule designating coal ash as a non-hazardous solid waste material. The ruling would allow for the continued beneficial use of coal ash and ensure an unnecessary burden is not placed on North Dakota's utilities.

"Years of research have shown that coal ash should not be regulated as a hazardous waste. Doing so would only force unworkable requirements on our state's utilities, resulting in serious economic consequences and the loss of good-paying jobs," Senator Conrad said.

In a bipartisan letter to President Obama, Senator Conrad and 43 senators said a swiftly finalizing appropriate regulations for coal ash provides the "best solution for the environment and for the economy."

The senators said the environmental advantages of the beneficial use of coal ash in products such as concrete and road base are well-established. They noted coal ash makes concrete stronger and cuts down on the production of more energy-consuming cements. A 2010 study by the University of Wisconsin and the Electric Power Research Institute found the beneficial use of coal ash reduced annual greenhouse gas emissions by an equivalent of 11 million tons of carbon dioxide, annual energy consumption by 162 trillion British thermal units, and annual water usage by 32 billion gallons.

Senator Conrad also highlighted the fact that an EPA hazardous waste designation would "overwhelm existing hazardous waste disposal capacity" and strain critical budget and staff resources.

"While coal ash must be handled properly, there are less burdensome regulatory options that still protect public health and the environment and can be administered by state programs. In fact, North Dakota and other states already have the regulatory infrastructure in place to effectively manage it as a non-hazardous waste product," Senator Conrad said.

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