Date: August 10, 2012
Source: US Senator John Hoeven
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND), Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Max Baucus (D-MT), has introduced a compromise coal ash disposal bill designed to prevent EPA from regulating ash as a hazardous waste by assigning that authority to the states under municipal solid waste rules.
After a colossal spill in 2008 from a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) ash pond that sent a billion gallons on sludge into the surrounding countryside, EPA proposed in 2010 to regulate coal ash as either solid waste under RCRA subtitle D or as hazardous waste subject to stricter control requirements under subtitle C. Environmental groups support subtitle C rules, while industry and many states favor subtitle D, warning that hazardous waste rules will be costly and likely harm the ash reuse industry.
The "Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act of 2012," introduced on August 2, seeks to prevent EPA from adopting Subtitle C rules for ash. However, it has won the support of 12 Democrats and 12 Republicans, mainly because it includes compromises to earlier measures by both the House and the Senate that were opposed by activists and many democrats. It builds off a bill that Hoeven introduced earlier this year, S. 1751, that was similar to a measure passed by the House barring EPA from regulating coal ash disposal. Both the house bill and the original Hoeven measure give states primary authority to control ash under municipal solid waste rules without any additional requirements. The new bill includes additional measures including ash pond lining and enclosure requirements that would prevent leaching and spills like the TVA spill that prompted EPA's rulemaking.
The bill also requires that an independent registered professional engineer evaluate the structural integrity of the disposal impoundment and inspect the facility at least once per year to ensure "that the design, operation, and maintenance of the surface impoundment is in accordance with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices for containment of the maximum volume of coal combustion residuals and liquids which can be impounded, so as to ensure dam stability." Some Democrats had been pushing for additional environmental "safeguards" before supporting a coal ash bill.
"The new legislation enables states to set up their own permitting programs, but they must be based on federal standards for the management, disposal and oversight of coal ash in order to protect human health and the environment. States and industry would have the predictability they need to manage residuals under the bill because the benchmarks for what constitutes a successful management program will be set in statute," Hoeven said.
August 2, 2012
Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce the Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act of 2012
Measure Will Preserve Jobs, Protect Local Oversight, Ensure Good Environmental Stewardship
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) today introduced bipartisan legislation that will ensure the safe and efficient recycling of coal ash into a valuable construction material for roads, buildings and other infrastructure projects.
The Hoeven-Conrad-Baucus Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act of 2012 provides strong state oversight for storage and management of coal residuals, while empowering industry to safely recycle it into useful and less-expensive construction materials. It takes a states-first approach that provides regulatory certainty for industry, local control for the states, and good environmental stewardship for the public.
Coal ash is a byproduct of coal-based electricity generation that has been safely recycled for buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure for years. The new bill will set up a state permitting program for coal ash under a section of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. It would ensure coal ash storage sites have requirements for timely and effective groundwater monitoring, protective lining, and properly engineered structures needed to protect communities and the environment. States that prefer could grant oversight to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The new legislation enables states to set up their own permitting programs, but they must be based on federal standards for the management, disposal and oversight of coal ash in order to protect human health and the environment. States and industry would have the predictability they need to manage residuals under the bill because the benchmarks for what constitutes a successful management program will be set in statute.
Hoeven today outlined the new legislation on the U.S. Senate floor in Washington, illustrating his comments with photos of Bismarck State University's National Center of Energy Excellence and a rendering of the new North Dakota Heritage Center expansion, both of which incorporate recycled coal residuals in their construction.
"At a time when our nation very much needs jobs and economic growth, our bill will help to create both, while also helping to lower the cost of energy for American families and businesses," Hoeven said. "North Dakota serves as a good example of how states can properly manage the disposal of coal residuals with good environmental stewardship, and at the same time, allow for its beneficial use in buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure with a material that is stronger and less expensive."
"This bill takes a common-sense approach that keeps states at the forefront of regulating coal ash, but requires the states to meet a common set of standards to ensure that drinking water is safe," Senator Conrad said. "This approach would ensure that coal-fired power plants can continue operating efficiently and providing affordable electricity to consumers. It will also mean that road builders can continue to use coal ash to make concrete roads and bridges both stronger and more affordable."
"This is a commonsense approach that supports jobs while giving states like Montana and North Dakota the power to protect their own communities instead of bureaucrats calling the shots from Washington," Baucus said. "This bill strikes a good balance to continue our strong commitment to protecting our outdoor heritage while supporting industries that turn coal ash into jobs building roads and bridges."
The legislation introduced today is an amended version of a bill Senators Hoeven and Conrad introduced earlier. They've revised the measure to gain more bipartisan support, and the new legislation is now sponsored by 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats.
In addition to Hoeven, Conrad and Baucus, cosponsors of the legislation include Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jerry Moran (R-Kans.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Robert Casey (D-Penn.) Jim Webb (D-Va.).