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Public Statements

Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 4348, Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Speaker, more than three and a half years ago an impoundment holding disposed ash waste broke open, creating a massive spill in Kingston, Tennessee. The spill covered entire neighborhoods and the Clinch River with over one billion gallons of coal fly ash--displacing residents and resulting in $1.2 billion in clean up costs.

The accident underscored the need for strong rules to ensure structural stability and the safety of coal ash impoundments. Yet, as of today, no national rules have been put into place to prevent another Kingston spill.

Two years ago the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first-ever regulations to ensure the safe disposal and management of coal ash from power plants under the nation's primary law for regulating solid waste, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

EPA presented two regulatory options: regulating coal ash as hazardous waste under Subtitle C or regulating coal ash as a non-hazardous waste under Subtitle D. But the EPA's proposal has stalled creating uncertainty for businesses and families.

As I said when the House of Representatives considered this issue last October, I have concerns that designating fly ash as a hazardous material will have major impacts on the recycling and reuse of fly ash to manufacture wallboard, roofing materials and bricks, and especially concrete.

In 2008 alone, the concrete industry used 15.8 million tons of fly ash in the manufacturing of ready mixed concrete making it the most widely used supplemental cementing material. When combined with cement, fly ash improves the durability, strength, constructability, and economy of concrete.

It also has huge environmental benefits. Using coal ash--an industrial byproduct--in concrete results in longer lasting structures and reduction in the amount of waste materials sent to landfills, raw materials extracted, energy required for production, and air emissions, including carbon dioxide.

A ``hazardous'' designation of fly ash could put these benefits in jeopardy. It could make fly ash storage and transportation more expensive, and create a legal environment that would deter cement manufacturers from recycling fly ash in cement production.

The result would not only be devastating for the cement manufacturing industry and American jobs, it could also divert millions of tons of coal fly ash from beneficial uses to surface impoundments like the one that broke open in Kingston, Tennessee--an outcome nobody wants.

I don't think H.R. 2273 is a perfect bill. And, to be clear, I support strong regulations for the disposal and storage of coal ash. But, these regulations can and should be completed without jeopardizing the recycling and reuse of fly ash.

I am supporting Rep. McKinley's motion to instruct because it would move the conversation forward on how to find a reasonable and responsible balance between protecting communities and our environment, while also incentivizing the recycling and reuse of coal ash--goals we can all support.

It is my understanding that my colleagues on the conference are making progress in finding that balance. Meaningful conversations that began more than six months ago between key stakeholders are beginning to bear some fruit on this issue.

We shouldn't ignore this issue--it's too important. We shouldn't wait for an undefined period of time before strong rules are put in place. We shouldn't discourage recycling and reuse of coal ash by unnecessarily labeling it as ``hazardous waste.''

Let's pass this motion and get back to work on a long-term bill.


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