Fly Ash Bill Substitute Approved

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday passed a substitute version of U.S. Rep. David McKinley’s bill to stop fly ash from being regulated as a hazardous material.

A replacement amendment added to the bill by Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill; stipulates that fly ash – the waste product resulting from the burning of coal – be managed in the same manner as municipal solid waste by “state environmental protection authorities applying stringent federal standards.”

House Resolution 2273, “The Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act,” passed the committee by a vote of 35-12.

Six Democrats voted for the measure, which will next be considered by the full House.

“This is a jobs bill, plain and simple, and that’s why it attracted such a strong showing of bipartisan support,” McKinley said. “I applaud my colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee for their attention on this issue.

At times we did not agree on everything, but together we were able to work to advance a thoughtful piece of legislation that will save jobs across a wide spectrum of industries, including coal.”

He said the bill will “prevent increased electricity costs, stop job losses, and strengthen and protect public health.”

“This compromise legislation will tighten the disposal and the management of coal ash, and ultimately give the states the control of the program as well as the ability to work with the EPA to ensure it is handled, stored and monitored properly,” McKinley noted. “Today’s vote was only a step in the process, but the bipartisanship we saw on display in this hearing can only mean positive things for its future.”

The vote came at the end of a two-day hearing in which Republican committee members debated Democrats on the committee over whether the federal government or state governments should take the lead in regulating fly ash and elements coming from coal-fired plants.

As McKinley participated in the Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-Ohio, spoke on the House floor regarding her amendment to House Resolution 2018, the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011.

Capito’s measure – which requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consider jobs when setting policy and regulation – passed the House 268-152.

Capito and McKinley were joined in voting for the legislation by Reps. Bob Gibbs and Bill Johnson, both R-Ohio; and by Nick Rahall, D-W.Va. H.R. 2018, as a whole, soon after was approved with a vote of 239 to 184. Capito, McKinley, Gibbs, Johnson and Rahall all cast votes in favor.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., said Democrats were well-aware that there are beneficial uses for fly ash, which is often used to make asphalt as well as many cosmetic products. He said “we want these to continue.” He also referenced a disaster happening in Kingston, Tenn., where a fly ash coal slurry owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority spilled and covered homes and land in the surrounding area. Dingell said Democrats were concerned about the retention ponds kept at coal burning electrical plants, and fly ash getting into the atmosphere.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said, “The problem of pushing 19th century technology like coal, is that the science has to be brought up to 21st Century science.”

McKinley addressed Democrats’ and their comments regarding the incident in Tennessee.

“While it was a tragedy, you have reported that the fly ash spilled there was toxic,” he told Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla. “There is none. You know that.

“It’s part of this urban myth that is out there about this energy, and that it is what killed the wild life (in Kingston). There was not one case of toxicity in that at Kingston. It was unfortunate, but what happened there had nothing to do with chemical composition.”