The Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), today held a hearing on the discussion draft of H.R. __, the Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act of 2013. Today's hearing builds on the subcommittee's work last Congress to set up a state-based regulatory program for the safe management, reuse, and disposal of coal residuals. The draft bill mirrors the text of S. 3512 in the 112th Congress, which was introduced in the Senate with strong bipartisan support, and is similar to Rep. David McKinley's (R-WV) legislation, H.R. 2273, which passed the House in 2011 by a bipartisan vote of 267 to 144.
The draft legislation seeks to preserve beneficial reuse programs and keep energy costs low for American businesses and families. It provides a practical alternative to EPA's 2010 proposal to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste by creating a state-based program that sets enforceable federal standards. Coal ash is widely used in construction products such as cement, concrete, wallboard, and roofing materials.
"Our efforts to solve the coal ash issue continue," said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). "Building on the House-passed bill, Senators Hoeven and Baucus and a bipartisan Senate group wrote S. 3512. It preserved the approach of our House bill, but added more detail to the minimum federal standards. We welcome witnesses' suggestions to improve the text. However, we do prefer to preserve the signature approach of the bill: minimum statutory standards implemented by the states."
Mathy Stanislaus, Assistant EPA Administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, testified on the draft legislation on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency. Stanislaus stated that the draft legislation does meet many of EPA's requirements for safe coal ash disposal but noted that there are some areas where the agency seeks further clarification. Stanislaus said EPA was not opposed to the bill and expressed a commitment to working with Congress on a legislative solution, stating, "The regulation of CCRs raises complex issues -- from the scientific analyses to public and regulatory policy. Should Congress decide to address the regulation of CCRs through legislation, EPA stands ready to assist in that effort to help ensure that legislation establishes a regulatory framework to regulate the management of CCRs in a nationally consistent manner that fully protects human health and the environment."
The subcommittee also heard from a panel of state regulators who endorsed the state-based approach of the discussion draft. Robert Martineau, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, testified on behalf of the Environmental Council of the States and called the legislation a model for future state-federal partnerships in tackling environmental challenges. He said, "ECOS sees the approach in this bill as a new path forward for federal involvement in some of the environmental challenges we face. We live in an era of constrained resources at all levels of government: federal, state and local. Some national environmental challenges, air quality as an example, require significant partnerships between the states and the federal government. Other challenges, like coal ash, are suitable and would benefit from a new partnership model."
"The long and short of it is -- Congress is perfectly capable of establishing a standard of protection for coal ash. The states are perfectly capable -- and in the best position -- to implement robust permit programs for coal ash," said Chairman Shimkus.