Manchin, Rockefeller Co-sponsor Coal Ash Bill in Senate

State Journal

Measure virtually identical to one McKinley sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W. Va., have signed on as co-sponsors of a U.S. Senate bill they say would ensure the safe and effective disposal of coal combustible residuals, also known as coal ash.

Ash is a byproduct of coal-fired power plants and is recycled as a building material.

The bill is practically identical to one that passed the House of Representatives Oct. 14. That bill was introduced by Rep. David McKinley, R- W.Va. It limits the EPA’s ability to regulate the disposal of coal ash.

The EPA has proposed to regulate coal ash in one of two ways: similarly to household waste and primarily under state authority, or more stringently as a “special waste” under federal hazardous waste guidelines.

The bill’s aim, in part, is to avoid a stigma supporters say is attached to materials that would be regulated under hazardous waste guidelines, safeguarding the growing industry that re-uses coal ash in construction materials and fill.

Opponents of the bill argued that ash disposal must be carefully regulated because the ash contains toxic metals and that, while offering needed regulation, the EPA’s “special waste” approach would still allow for re-use.

McKinley issued a statement Friday applauding Rockefeller and Manchin for their support of the bills.

“Their willingness to move past partisan politics and recognize this as a job creation bill that solves a 30-year-old problem is to be commended, and is a strong signal to the White House and Senate leadership that this legislation is just common sense,” McKinley said.

Manchin said the Senate bill would allow states to set up their own permitting program for the management and disposal of coal ash that is based on existing EPA regulations to protect human health and the environment.

States would know where they stand under the bill, as the benchmarks for what constitutes a successful state program will be set in statute. Manchin described it as a “a states-first approach that provides regulatory certainty.”

“The bipartisan support for this commonsense legislation is so strong, and has been building for a long time because overregulation of coal ash by the EPA would threaten vital industries, as well as needlessly cost West Virginia and the nation more jobs -- neither of which we can afford,” Manchin said in a news release.

“This legislation gives us a common sense fix: Let each state use existing EPA health and environment regulations to set up their own permitting program that allows them to recycle and reuse coal ash. This approach will protect jobs and our economy, and give families and businesses the certainty they need to help restore confidence.”

Manchin said the legislation is prompted by the EPA’s proposal to regulate coal ash as hazardous waste. Coal ash is a byproduct that has been safely used for buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure for years under state regulations, he said. The agency’s new rule would add additional costs to recycling companies and power plants, thereby increasing the cost of electricity to consumers.

Other Senate co-sponsors of the bill are Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D.; Kent Conrad, D-N.D.; Michael Enzi, R-Wyo.; Mary Landrieu, D-La.; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Ben Nelson, D-Neb.; and John Boozman, R-Ark.

If the Senate passes its version of a bill that is practically identical to the one that passed theHouse, no conference committee would need to approve it. The clerks of the House and the Senate would clean up any differences in formatting, such as whether to place definitions at the top of the bill or the bottom, and forward it to the White House for the president’s signature or veto, Bittner said.