McKinley’s Jobs Bill on Coal Ash Passes Full House

W.Va. freshman’s compromise legislation passes with bipartisan support

A jobs bill(H.R. 2273)authored by Rep. David B. McKinley, P.E.(R-WV), which for the first time sets minimum federal guidelines regulating coal ash while empowering the states to enforce them, passed the House Friday with overwhelming bipartisan support. McKinley’s legislation, which a Veritas study found could protect up to 316,000 jobs from being eliminated, was approved 267-144, with 37 Democrats voting yes. The Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr. today noted that the question of how to regulate coal ash has been “a long simmering issue ignored by many policymakers” – until now.

After today’s vote, McKinley stated, “Every day coal ash is produced in nearly 700 coal-fired generating plants in 48 of the 50 states in America. Approximately 140 tons are produced annually with 40% of that coal ash being beneficially recycled. Over the years, scientists and entrepreneurs have found uses for coal ash through a variety of recycling options. Businesses were emboldened to recycle the material after two studies by the EPA in 1993 and in 2000 found that coal ash is not a hazardous material and could be used by the public. The findings of these two studies specifically state that there have been no documented cases of coal ash damaging human health or the environment. As a result industries have sprung up all across America and thousands of jobs have been created by recycling coal ash.

“After 30 years we finally resolved the issue today. H.R. 2273 is strongly endorsed by state environmental officials, including the Environmental Council of the States and the Association of State and Solid Waste Officials as well as various labor unions. I am pleased to see so many of my colleagues support this bipartisan, pro-jobs legislation.”

McKinley concluded by saying, “This is a jobs bill and a public health bill; protecting the livelihoods and the health of our working men and women are not mutually exclusive ideas.”

H.R. 2273 now moves to the Senate, where already fourteen Democrats have expressed support for the approach taken by McKinley’s legislation. Rep. Gene Green, a Democrat from Houston who rarely votes with Republicans on environmental issues, rose in support of McKinley’s legislation today and hailed its bipartisan nature: “We are doing something here that we don’t do very often in this House. We actually have a bill that came out of committee that has bipartisan support…this bill is something we don’t do on this floor in the last 10 months very often: we actually compromised and came up with good legislation, and we hope the Senate will pass it.”

In a Statement of Administration Policy this week, the White House notably did not threaten a veto of this bill unlike previous House-passed EPA bills.

McKinley Debates Coal Ash Bill on House Floor

(Click Picture for Video)


Read Rep. McKinley’s Editorial on his Coal Ash Bill

Congress should vote to protect renewable coal ash
By Rep. David McKinley(R-WV)
October 14, 2011

This week the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected President Obama’s jobs bill. But there is another jobs bill on the horizon, and this one can pass the Senate.

I authored H.R. 2273 to establish a state-based regulatory framework for the disposal and management of coal ash and it is set to hit the House floor today. It will improve the economy and strengthen public health, and unlike most things in Washington these days, is genuinely bipartisan.

Coal ash is an unavoidable byproduct of burning coal to produce electricity. Much of it is recycled to make concrete and other building materials more durable and less water-intensive, which in turn benefits the environment.

Recently, President Obama’s EPA has proposed regulating it as a hazardous material, but two EPA studies under the Clinton administration found that coal ash was not hazardous. Another study found ruling coal as a hazardous material could eliminate up to 316,000 jobs over the next 20 years. And already, the stigma the EPA has created surrounding coal ash’s use has had a chilling effect on the various industries that recycle it.

H.R. 2273 not only prevents the EPA from regulating it as a hazardous material, but establishes a new regulatory framework, similar but more stringent to that of municipal solid waste landfills, and will safeguard both jobs and public health. The states will have primacy over the regulation of coal ash, but EPA retains its ability to step in when necessary.

A broad coalition of groups stands behind this bill. Nearly all Republicans and the many industries affected support it, of course, but so did one-third of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Democrats – including those with near-perfect lifetime ratings from the League of Conservation Voters; the United Mine Workers of America, which even supported cap-and-trade; Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat; and the Environmental Council of the States, comprised of the top environmental protection officers in each state.

In its Statement of Administration Policy, the White House notably did not threaten a veto of this bill - perhaps influenced by the 12 Senate Democrats who signed on to a letter earlier this year opposing the EPA’s proposal to regulate coal ash as hazardous.

After Republicans worked diligently with the other side of the aisle to make changes to the original bill that satisfied the concerns of industry and environmentalists alike, this bill has a realistic chance to become law.

House Republicans do not oppose regulation. We want clean air and water for our children and grandchildren as much as Democrats do. But it must be responsible regulation that protects jobs. This legislation does just that. Congress won’t pass President Obama’s jobs bill, but let’s pass this one.

Read the article online here.

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