McKinley Touts Coal Ash Bill
Morgantown Dominion Post
6 June 2013
By David Beard
Rep. David McKinley addressed Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) concerns in his revised coal ash bill, he told reporters
Wednesday afternoon, and at this point the EPA doesn’t oppose the
“I hope that they’ll continue to stay with us,” he said.
House Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John
Shimkus, R-Ill., said his panel will mark up the bill — HR 2218,
The Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act — today. It was
introduced Monday, and no date is set for the full Committee on
Energy and Commerce to take it up.
Coal ash is a byproduct of coal combustion used as an additive to
concrete and drywall, and in such things as countertops and
bowling balls. About 140 million tons a year are produced, and
about 40 percent of it gets recycled into various products, said
The remainder has to be disposed of. Much gets used to mitigate
acid drainage from surface mines. The rest goes into landfills,
where it raises concerns of leaching toxins — arsenic, cadmium,
selenium, mercury and lead — into waterways. The EPA has proposed
classifying coal ash as a hazardous waste.
“This is a legislative remedy that has been 32 years in coming,”
McKinley said. He first learned of the issue before his first run
for office and has been tacking it. His first bill on the issue
passed the House last Congress but died in the Senate. An effort
to attach it as an amendment to last year’s compromise
transportation bill also failed.
McKinley said he believes states are better equipped than the EPA
to regulate it. The bill provides minimum federal standards for
regulating coal ash but allows states to craft a permit program
that works for its own needs.
Wrapping in some Senate provisions, the bill requires installation
of groundwater monitoring at all structures that receive coal ash;
requires deadlines for certain surface impoundments to meet a
groundwater protection standard or be closed; and improves the
structural stability and dam safety requirements by requiring an
engineer’s certification and annual inspection.
Nick Goldstein, with the American Road and Transportation
Building Association, said a study by his organization showed that
the EPA’s proposal could increase the average costs of building
roads and bridges nationwide by $5.23 billion a year — $104.6
billion over 20 years.
With regulatory uncertainty, he said, the industry has been unable
to move forward in using it. “People don’t want to use it not
knowing what’s going to happen.”
A different report, in 2011 by Veritas Economic Consulting, said
classifying coal ash as a hazardous waste could cost 183,000 to
316,000 lost jobs across the nation — 41,000 to 73,000 in the
region that includes West Virginia — and $78.9 billion to $110
billion over 20 years. McKinley and other bill proponents
frequently cite those figures.
Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator of the E PA’s Office of
Solid Waste and Emergency Response, addressed the subcommittee
about the draft bill in April. He noted a variety of concerns,
most of which appear to have been addressed in the introduced
EPA couldn’t be reached in time for this report Wednesday
afternoon, but in April, Stanislaus said the agency had no
position on the draft bill — which has since been revised.
The Dominion Post provided the Sierra Club West Virginia
chapter with a copy of the bill and asked if appears to be any
better than last year’s, which Sierra opposed.
Executive Committee chair Jim Sconyers said in an email, “Better —
not really. Its primary effect remains keeping the EPA from
regulating this massive toxic waste stream. Handing it to the
state — we know how that works. State agencies like our WVDEP
can’t or won’t provide effective protection for our citizens.
McKinley is at least consistent — he continues to act to protect
the profits of the coal and electric power industry and not the
health and safety of his constituents.”
Shimkus said he “respect - fully disagrees” with Sierra’s position
on the Department of Environmental Protection. McKinley said the
EPA has twice before — in 1993 and 2000 — declared coal ash
nonhazardous, and there are far worse things to worry about going
into landfills — battery acid, motor oil and more.
The environmental group Earthjustice also opposes the bill. It
said in a release this week, “Once again, Rep. McKinley has
ignored science, safety standards, and coal ash problems in his
own district in order to deliver a bill that threatens community
health and safety, water quality, and caters to industry demands.”
A 2010 study by Earthjustice and Physicians for Social
Responsibility asserted that coal ash is toxic and can leach even
from lined landfills.
Capito and Rahall
McKinley’s West Virginia colleagues, Republican Shelley Moore
Capito and Democrat Nick Rahall, are co-sponsors. They commented
Rahall said, “Finding ways to address the byproduct of coal ash
has long been important to ensuring the continued use of coal in
energy and manufacturing plants, while also ensuring the safety of
communities throughout West Virginia. Most importantly, HR 2218
would tighten monitoring of groundwater near impoundments and
includes measures to better ensure the structural integrity of
those impoundments, something I have long supported.”
Capito said via email, “EPA’s coal combustion residuals proposal
would not only add billions of dollars annually to the cost of
producing electricity, but it would also have a negative impact on
the reuse of coal ash for cement, concrete, and other construction
materials. … This year’s bill preserves the core of last year’s
proposal, with changes that should help the bill win more
bipartisan support. I am proud to cosponsor this important bill
and look forward to seeing it enacted.”