In 2005 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a report recommending use of a certain substance in highway construction projects "to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, reduce energy consumption and conserve natural resources."
The material in question? Coal ash, sometimes referred to as fly ash.
Now the EPA wants to declare coal ash a hazardous substance and require it be treated as such - at enormous expense.
EPA officials in 2005 were studying fly ash scientifically, not under the aegis of the war on coal begun after Barack Obama became president in 2008. The agency's coal ash campaign is just part of a multi-pronged assault on the coal industry.
U.S. senators can block the EPA from establishing unreasonable new regulations on coal ash. Ironically, one of the senators apparently on Obama's side is Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., whose state economy depends on coal and cheap electricity generated by burning it.
Last year Rockefeller said he agreed with a proposal by U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., to curb the EPA's coal ash plan. McKinley believes regulations are needed, but should be drafted and enforced based on science. That would be in contrast to the EPA's politically motivated agenda.
Now, however, Rockefeller says he has had second thoughts. Last week he expressed skepticism about McKinley's coal ash proposal, as contained in a House of Representatives amendment to a major transportation bill.
Part of Rockefeller's concern is the coal ash language has nothing to do with the transportation bill, the senator said.
But McKinley's proposal has everything to do with transportation.
Coal ash is used widely as a substitute for the Portland cement used in highway and bridge construction. In addition to the environmental benefits cited by the EPA in 2005, it reduces the cost of concrete.
A report by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association estimates the EPA's proposed rules would add about $5.2 billion a year to the cost of roads, bridge and runway construction.
In other words, inclusion of the McKinley amendment in the transportation bill would allow money provided by it to build far more new roads and bridges - and employ tens of thousands more Americans - than if the Senate rejects the change.
Rockefeller and his staff should be aware of that, so we are puzzled by his reticence concerning the McKinley amendment. He should reconsider and help push the amendment to adoption by the Senate.