Mr. GENE GREEN of Texas. I thank our ranking member for allowing me time to speak.
I rise to express my support for H.R. 2273, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act. As a Member of Congress from basically an oil and gas and refinery and chemical plant area, for the last 8 months I have learned more about coal ash than I think I have ever wanted to.
We know that coal combustion waste can be responsibly recycled and beneficially used. Wisconsin recycles 97 percent of their coal ash. Encouraging beneficial reuse of coal ash ensures less of it in landfills, which is good for our environment and good for the economy. The great debate with coal combustion waste is how do we ensure we have enough environmental protections for coal ash disposal without discouraging beneficial use.
As ranking member of the Environment and Economy Subcommittee of Energy and Commerce, I believe the legislation before us today is a vastly improved version of the legislation considered by our subcommittee for markup, which would simply ban EPA from deeming coal ash as a hazardous material. This legislation would further be improved by the adoption of the Shimkus amendment, the manager's amendment, later.
Currently, there is a patchwork of State programs to regulate the disposal of coal combustion waste. H.R. 2273 for the first time establishes comprehensive, minimum Federal standards for coal ash management and disposal. Contrary to statements made, H.R. 2273 does include groundwater monitoring provisions. The legislation applies existing requirements for groundwater monitoring and corrective action measures to coal combustion residuals. Facilities would be required to monitor and respond to any releases. In addition, States have the authority to require facilities that don't meet the standards to close.
Additionally, this legislation includes a provision championed by my good friend, Congressman Doyle from Pennsylvania, which would ensure adequate closure standards for surface impoundments, including closure plans and drainage standards. I know some Members have concerns about the legislation, but we worked diligently with the majority and stakeholders to make improvements to the bill. There has been an assertion by some of my colleagues that the legislation does nothing to protect the environment. EPA has no current authority, and this bill for the first time sets those standards.
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The assertions by some of my colleagues that this legislation does nothing to protect the environment are misleading at best. EPA has no authority now and this bill for the first time sets national standards.
No, this bill is not perfect. But part of legislating is moving the ball forward and we cannot continue to spend months working on legislation that is simply sent to the Senate to die.
I believe my colleagues on the Majority made significant improvements since their first draft of the bill and a good faith effort to address many of the concerns raised by the minority.