The U.S. House of Representatives is taking aim at any federal notion to classify fossil fuel combustion waste as hazardous.
The House voted 239-183 early Saturday (Feb. 19) to approve a proposal by Rep. David B. McKinley (R-WV) “to prohibit the use of funds by EPA to develop, propose, finalize, implement, administer, or enforce any regulation that identifies or lists fossil fuel combustion waste as hazardous waste subject to regulation.”
McKinley’s H.AMDT.158 was offered as an amendment to H.R.1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act that extends the current federal budget for the rest of the fiscal year. The budget is set to expire March 4.
The Senate still must approve the measure, and passage in that Democratic-controlled chamber is uncertain. On the other hand, 19 House Democrats voted for the amendment, and public and political sentiment against EPA is running high. The McKinley measure is just one of several anti-EPA pieces of legislation now under consideration in Congress.
Coal Ash Regulation
EPA is currently deciding whether to enact stronger coal ash disposal standards. The Proposed Rule for Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals [CCRs] from Electric Utilities, unveiled last June, addresses regulation of fly ash, bottom ash, boiler (coal) slag, and flue gas desulfurization sludge from coal-burning power plants.
Two regulatory approaches are available under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
One would regulate CCRs destined for disposal as special waste and create a comprehensive program of federally enforceable requirements for management and disposal. The other would continue to manage CCRs as non-hazardous waste but establish performance standards for waste management facilities receiving CCRs.
The proposals played to packed houses nationwide in a series of public hearings last fall.
The McKinley measure does not prevent EPA from proceeding with stronger standards. The landfill engineering standards for EPA’s non-hazardous and hazardous options are similar, and the House did not touch funding for the non-hazardous approach, American Coal Ash Association executive director Thomas H. Adams told ACAA members this week in a letter.
And even if the measure is approved, it will expire with the budget resolution on Sept. 30.
Nevertheless, the coal ash industry is encouraged.
Approval of the amendment “shows a strong sentiment in the House against EPA’s proposal to regulate coal ash disposal as a ‘hazardous waste,’” Adams wrote.
He noted that coal ash regulation “has been raised in at least three recent Congressional subcommittee hearings, with members of Congress expressing strong concerns over the possible impact of EPA’s proposed regulations, including harm to coal ash beneficial use.”
Adams said “dozens” of Republican and Democratic House members “have previously signed letters to the Administrator of EPA, urging her not to regulate coal ash disposal as a hazardous waste because of the significant potential for damaging beneficial uses of the resource.”
“This action by the House confirms that Congress has serious objections to one of the approaches EPA has proposed for regulating coal ash disposal landfills and impoundments.”
Jason Vukas, vice president of abrasives manufacturer U.S. Minerals, also took the measure as a positive sign.
“We applaud this bipartisan effort by the House,” he said. “The recycling of all [Coal Combustion Byproducts] has been a true success story.
“Boiler slag abrasives have a proven history, with over 70 years, as one of the safest and most effective abrasive products in the industry. We remain confident that science and the facts will win in this debate, as it has in the past.”