Congressman Rick Berg today urged the Senate to take up a recently House-passed measure limiting the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate the use of coal ash.
Berg also applauded North Dakota Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven for introducing in the Senate a companion bill to the House's "Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2011," which was passed in the House last week with bipartisan support.
"The Obama administration's new rules not only infringe on North Dakota's ability to efficiently manage coal ash, but could cost our state millions of dollars in regulatory costs and consumer electric bills," Berg stated. "I applaud Senators Conrad and Hoeven for introducing the Senate counterpart of this important legislation and I strongly urge the Senate to pass this common sense measure and join the House in protecting American jobs from more senseless government overreach."
Berg noted that coal ash is widely used in North Dakota as a concrete additive in construction projects and sandblast abrasives, which creates $6 million in annual revenue. This reuse of coal ash strengthens concrete, reduces the amount of waste entering surface impoundments and landfills, and cuts down costs for the storage and transportation of the coal ash.
Last week, the House passed the "Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2011," which provides for consistent state regulatory authority over coal ash under the Solid Waste Disposal Act, allowing states to develop their own coal ash management plans and deem coal ash non-hazardous.
Berg served as a cosponsor to previous legislation similar to the "Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2011" and was a key supporter of efforts to move this legislation through the House of Representatives last week.
The legislation was proposed in response to the Obama administration's regulatory plan for coal ash under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which would increase costs for coal-fired power plants and threaten the beneficial use of coal ash, putting hundreds of thousands of jobs in jeopardy and driving up electricity prices. These regulations would classify coal ash as a hazard material -- a designation previous administrations and scientific studies have deemed inappropriate. This stigmatization would discourage recycling and the beneficial use of a material widely used in construction products such as cement and drywall.
Industry estimates show that the Obama administration's regulatory plan for coal ash would cost somewhere between $101 billion and $144 billion over 20 years, with estimated job losses of 222,900 to 380,700 nationwide.
From 1999 to 2009, American industries successfully recycled 519 million tons of coal ash. Greenhouse gas emissions decreased by more than 138 million tons during that period through the use of coal ash in concrete products.
Berg serves a member of the Congressional Coal Caucus, which works to raise awareness of coal's value as an affordable energy resource and advance an energy policy that makes coal cleaner to use, rather than reducing its use. Berg is also a member of the House Energy Action Team, which consists of a committed group of House members working to promote common sense energy policies that will address rising energy prices, create thousands of good jobs and enhance our national security by promoting energy independence for America.