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Mr. HOEVEN. Madam President, I rise to speak on energy legislation which is important to this country and legislation I truly believe we can and, in fact, need to pass this year.
The U.S. House of Representatives is working on key energy legislation. I think it is very likely they will pass it this evening. That legislation includes a bill that is very similar to energy legislation I have put forward in the Senate. The legislation I am talking about is the Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act of 2012.
Simply put, this legislation sets commonsense standards for managing and recycling coal ash with a States-led, States-first approach.
We have strong bipartisan support for the bill. As I said, we need to take up the bill this year and pass it. Simply put, we have the support on a bipartisan basis to support it. We have more than a dozen Democratic sponsors and more than a dozen Republican sponsors.
So why is it important? In simple terms, this is exactly the kind of energy legislation that can help take our Nation to energy security or energy independence. What I mean by that is with the right energy plan, we can move this country to the point where we produce more energy than we consume. Working with our closest friend and ally, Canada, we can produce more energy than we consume--meaning we truly are energy independent or energy secure so that we are not importing energy from the Middle East.
And it is not just about energy, it is about jobs--good-paying jobs at a time when we have more than 8 percent unemployment. It is about economic growth--economic growth that we need to get on top of the debt and the deficit. We need to find savings, but we also have to get this economy growing to get on top of this deficit and our $16 trillion Federal debt.
It also is about national security. Look at what is going on across the Middle East. Yet we still import energy from the Middle East. Americans do not want to be dependent on importing energy from the Middle East. The reality is, with the right energy plan, we can produce that energy at home and be energy secure, create good jobs, and get our economy growing at the same time. This is just one step, but it is one more important step on that journey.
Let me give an example of what we are doing in my home State of North Dakota and doing in States across the country. In North Dakota, just north of the capital Bismarck, there is a large electric power complex, the Coal Creek Power Station, that is operated by Great River Energy, a company that operates from North Dakota to Minnesota. It is a large complex. It generates 1,100 megawatts of electricity, two 550-megawatt powerplants. It employs the latest, greatest technology. It has emissions controls that are state of the art.
This plant captures waste steam, steam that was formerly exhausted into the air, and uses it to power an ethanol plant. So they are making renewable transportation fuel with waste steam, very low cost, very efficient. It reuses the coal ash or the coal residuals that are produced. It recycles those for building materials.
Along with a company called Headwaters, a natural resource company out of Utah, Great River Energy takes this coal ash and makes FlexCrete out of it, which is concrete they use on highways, roads, bridges, anywhere you would use concrete. But they also make other building products as well, such as shingles, that one would use to put on the roof. So this is truly a concept where we are recycling the coal ash and the coal residuals.
Formerly, coal ash was put in landfills, and the company would pay about $4 million a year to landfill hundreds of thousands of tons of coal ash. Now they sell it, and it is made into these building materials. They generate something like $12 million a year selling this coal ash for building material. If we do the math, that is about a $16 million swing from across the $4 million a year to a revenue stream of $12 million a year.
What does that mean? That means families, small businesses, consumers throughout North Dakota, Minnesota, and beyond now pay $16 million less for their electricity than they did before because of this creative use. This truly is American ingenuity and American innovation at work.
In fact, I have a couple examples of buildings that are made from building material produced with coal ash. The first one is the National Energy Center of Excellence at Bismarck State College, where we train people in the energy field. So people are learning how to have a great career in all different types of energy at a facility that is made with the coal ash that I am talking about. It overlooks the Missouri River. It is an absolutely beautiful facility.
Let me give another example. This is a building under construction right now. This is the North Dakota Heritage Center on the capitol grounds of our State capital in Bismarck. It is our heritage center, so it is a museum of our State history. Right now, we are doing a $50 million expansion to this facility that is being constructed with coal ash. It is a beautiful building being constructed right now.
By using coal ash nationwide, we reduce energy consumption by 162 trillion Btus a year. That is an energy amount that is equal to 1.7 million homes. So we save an amount of energy equal to powering 1.7 million homes.
Water use. We save by recycling coal ash; we save 32 billion gallons of water annually. That is equal to one-third of the amount of water used in the State of California.
So talk about saving energy and saving water use. This is truly a concept on which those who favor renewable energy, as well as those who favor traditional sources of energy, ought to be able to get together. This is recycling, saving huge amounts of energy, saving huge amounts of water.
So why do I tell this story? The reason I tell this story is this: Right now, coal ash is regulated under subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. That is nonhazardous waste, but EPA is looking at changing that to regulating it under subtitle C, which is the hazardous waste section. They are looking at doing that in spite of the Department of Energy, the Federal Highway Administration, State Regulatory Authorities, and even EPA itself acknowledging that it is not a toxic waste.
The EPA proposed that change in regulation in June 2010. Clearly, that would undermine the industry, drive up costs, and eliminate jobs when our economy can least afford them. Just to put that in perspective, the industry estimates that it would cost $50 billion annually and eliminate 300,000 American jobs. Let me go through that.
Meeting the regulatory disposal requirements under the EPA's subtitle C proposal would cost between $250 and $450 a ton as opposed to about $100 a ton under the current system. That translates into a $47-billion-a-year burden on electricity generators who use coal. And, most importantly, of course, who pays that bill? Their customers, families, and small businesses across the country. Overall, that could mean the loss of 300,000 American jobs.
That is why I brought this legislation forward with Senator Conrad, my colleague in North Dakota, and also Senator Baucus of Montana and others. We have more than 12 Republican sponsors on the bill and 12 Democratic sponsors on the bill. So it is very much a bipartisan bill.
Furthermore, this bill not only preserves coal ash recycling, as I have described, by preventing these byproducts from being treated as hazardous--and this is important: This bill establishes comprehensive Federal standards for coal ash disposal. Under this legislation, States can set up their own permitting programs for the management and the disposal of coal ash. These programs would be required to be based on existing EPA regulations to protect human health and the environment. If a State does not implement an acceptable permit program, then EPA regulates the program for that State. As a result, States and industry will know where they stand under this bill, and the benchmark for what constitutes a successful State program will be set in statute.
EPA can say, yes, the State does meet the standards or, no, the State does not meet the standards. But the EPA cannot move the goalpost. This is a States-first approach that provides regulatory certainty.
What is certain is that under this bill, coal ash disposal sites will be required to meet established standards. Again, this is important. We are requiring that they meet established standards. These standards include groundwater detection and monitoring, liners, corrective action when environmental damage occurs, structural stability criteria, and the financial assurance and recordkeeping needed to protect the public. So we set stringent standards.
This legislation is needed to protect jobs and to help reduce the cost of homes, roads, and electric bills. I thank the Republicans and the Democrats who have stepped forward on this bill, particularly Senator Conrad, my colleague in North Dakota, Senator Baucus, and others. We have the bipartisan support to move this bill forward. We need to be able to bring it to the floor and do it this year. It is about energy for this country that we need, and it is about jobs for American workers.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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