Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, Joe Manchin Sponor Coal Ash Bill

WHEELING — As a state that burns a lot of coal to generate electricity that helps illuminate homes across the U.S., West Virginia is flush with coal ash — the residue that results from the mineral’s combustion.

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., recently helped pass a provision they believe will help West Virginia and similar states deal with the problem by allowing for efficient recycling of coal ash. The Coal Combustion Residuals Regulatory Improvement Act was included in the Water Resources Development Act, that passed in the Senate by a vote of 95-3.

The legislation, if passed in the House of Representatives and eventually signed into law by the president, would authorize states to create permit programs to enforce coal ash disposal standards. Manchin and Capito believe allowing West Virginia regulators to write the rules regarding coal ash is preferable to yet another Environmental Protection Agency mandate from the Obama administration.

“I am proud we were able to come together and pass this common sense legislation that will protect jobs and our economy, while giving families and businesses the certainty they need,” Manchin said.

The EPA defines coal ash as the remnants of the mineral burned during electricity generation. Manchin and Capito said the EPA’s final coal ash rule, announced in December 2014, correctly regulates coal ash as a non-hazardous material.

However, the product contains trace amounts of materials such as mercury, cadmium and arsenic, which the EPA believes can harm air and water supplies.

“States, not the EPA, know how to best regulate within their own borders,” Capito said. “This commonsense, bipartisan approach will allow states to set up their own permitting programs for recycling and reusing coal ash, providing needed certainty to industry and businesses, while ensuring the health and safety of families and communities.”

Coal ash is not necessarily garbage, either. According to the Duke University Center for Sustainability and Commerce, rare earth elements are also prevalent in Appalachia coal ash.

Some of these rare earth elements, often used in personal electronic devices, can fetch more than $2,000 per pound on the open market.

“The overregulation of coal ash by the EPA would threaten vital industries and unnecessarily cost West Virginia and the nation more jobs,” Manchin added. “This legislation now heads over to the House, where I will work to ensure its passage and its eventual signing into law.”


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