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Bill Fights ‘Hazardous’ Ash Label

Monday, April 11, 2011

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A West Virginia congressman has again introduced legislation that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from classifying fossil fuel combustion residuals as hazardous waste. 

The Recycling Coal Combustion Residuals Accessibility Act of 2011 (H.R. 1391), would ban the regulation of the waste, also known as coal ash or fly ash, under Subtitle C of the Solid Waste Disposal Act.

“Fly ash is an unavoidable byproduct of burning coal to produce electricity, and the EPA has repeatedly studied and approved its beneficial use prior to President Obama,” said Republican Rep. David B. McKinley, PE, who introduced the bill with 15 Republican and four Democratic co-sponsors.

 David McKinley
Classifying fossil fuel waste as hazardous would increase energy prices, contends bill sponsor David B. McKinley (R-WV).

“Not only would the EPA’s plan reduce demand for coal—by design, to be sure—but it would also increase costs for dozens of industries, having a ripple effect that would ultimately destroy jobs and raise electricity prices.”

CCR Proposal

At issue is an impending decision by the EPA on how to regulate Coal Combustion Residuals under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The Proposed Rule for Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals [CCRs] from Electric Utilities, announced in June 2010, outlines two possible approaches to CCR under RCRA.

One would regulate CCRs destined for disposal as special waste and create a comprehensive program of federally enforceable requirements for waste management and disposal. The other would develop standards to manage CCRs as non-hazardous waste and establish performance standards for waste facilities receiving them.

The measure would affect regulation of fly ash, bottom ash, boiler (coal) slag, and flue gas desulfurization sludge from coal-burning power plants.

More than 136 million tons of CCRs were generated in 2008. About 1.6 million tons are used each year for blasting grit and roofing granules. CCRs are also used in paint manufacturing, waste stabilization, brick and concrete products, road bed and structural fill.

Regulatory Determinations

McKinley’s new bill notes that in two final Regulatory Determinations, in 1993 and 2000, the EPA concluded that “neither large-volume coal combustion wastes, nor any of the remaining fossil fuel combustion wastes, warrant regulation under subtitle C of the Solid Waste Disposal Act.”

Therefore, sponsors argue, there is no need to do so now.
 Beneficial use of CCRs

 EPA Office of Inspector General

Beneficial use of CCRs includes blasting grit, paint manufacturing, structural fill and concrete products, according to EPA.

The bill, similar to a budget bill amendment that McKinley sponsored in February, has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (The February amendment passed the House but was left out of the final budget bill agreed to late Friday.)

Critical Audit

McKinley’s measure came two weeks after a highly critical report by EPA’s Office of Inspector General, which said the agency had not followed “accepted and standard practices in determining the safety of the 15 categories of [Coal Combustion Residuals] beneficial uses it promoted” through its Coal Combustion Products Partnership.

OIG cited inadequate testing, lack of information and lack of due diligence by EPA in promoting CCR beneficial use for nearly 10 years without fully determining its risks.

“EPA’s application of risk assessment, risk screening, and leachate testing and modeling was significantly limited in scope and applicability,” the report said.

Purdue: $25M Disposal

Energy and Commerce Committee members have already heard testimony on the bill from a Purdue University official, who discussed how the regulation of fly ash could affect expansion of a university power plant, McKinley told the Wheeling News-Register. The plant produces 60 percent of the electricity used on campus, according to McKinley, who is a Purdue alumnus, the newspaper said.

Fly ash typically costs the university $300,000 a year, the official said. But if federally classified as a "hazardous material," disposal costs would soar to $25 million annually, McKinley told the newspaper.

“If the EPA persists with its plans to designate fly ash as a hazardous material, the expense of handling the material will increase logarithmically and so will our energy prices,” McKinley said in a statement. “Why would this administration want to increase the cost of electricity on our senior citizens, hospitals, schools and working families?

“By increasing the cost of power, it causes the price of producing American-made products to increase and puts America at a severe disadvantage against our foreign competition.”

More than 40 companies and organizations representing the power, mining, electrical, cement, gypsum and other industries have endorsed the bill.


Tagged categories: Coal ash; Coal Combustion Residuals; EPA; Regulations; Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

Comment from paul mellon, (4/12/2011, 10:06 AM)

Apparently Rep McKinley is so busy counting his campaign money from the coal slag lobby that he can't think straight. The EPA's OIG has just confirmed that the EPA never actually tested any of coal waste products they certified as "safe" to Congress in the now infamous 2000 Regulatory Determination. Is essence, the EPA purposely misled Congress about the safety of these products when they created the now suspended Beneficial Use Program. Rep. Foot-in-the-Mouth should think twice before he continues introducing lame bills on behalf of his coal lobby overlords to protect coal waste which does contain toxic metals. His bill by the way is already DOA given the new budget agreement over the weekend that killed all of the EPA riders. It makes nice press but has zero impact.

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