WASHINGTON, D.C. — A piece of legislation that gives states greater control over the management of coal ash is heading to the U.S. Senate for approval.
The Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. David McKinley, overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday with bipartisan support by a vote of 265 to 155. The legislation drew support from 39 Democrats.
“It’s the highest number from the Democrats that we’ve had on this legislation in two and a half years,” said Rep. McKinley.
McKinley believes past opposition to the bill was due to lawmakers not truly understanding what was in the legislation.
“It has such complexities to it that I think maybe it confounds some members as to what is trying to be accomplished here,” he said.
The legislation would protect the recycling of coal ash and give states the authority to set their own standards for the disposal of fly ash with oversight by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) while protecting human health and the environment.
Coal ash is a coal combustion byproduct that poses environmental threats when put in landfills but is also commonly recycled for use in cement, concrete and other products.
The legislation would also require installation of groundwater monitoring at all structures containing coal ash and set deadlines for meeting groundwater protection standards. Companies with impoundments that leak would have up to 10 years to fix the problem. If companies fail to do so, McKinley said the outcome is simple.
“If they are endangering the human health and the environment, they have to close,” he said.
Despite voicing concerns over some aspects of the bill, the White House did not issue a veto threat as it often does with GOP environmental bills.
McKinley said he and fellow bill supporters held numerous meetings and discussions with EPA and other stakeholders getting feedback about the bill. All the feedback was then put into this bill and as a result, McKinley believes it’s a wonderful example of compromise.
“I think we’ve got something that is far reaching and it will have a profound affect and I think because of that has a greater chance of being considered in the Senate than in the past,” he said.
Even with bipartisan support in the House, McKinley said there is still a lot more work to do.