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Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SHIMKUS. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of H.R. 2273, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act.

Fifty percent of our Nation's electricity generation comes from coal. This means that we need to do something to address the long-term disposal issues presented by these wastes. This bill is a measured, appropriate, protective response to the issue of coal waste generated to safely, responsibly, and affordably provide heat to communities across the country.

The trash we throw out daily contains everything from milk cartons to household cleaning items and pesticides, all mixed and destined for the same destination. The chemical characteristics of coal ash put it somewhere in between these two extremes. For years, States have been successfully managing these nonhazardous wastes through their municipal solid waste programs.

Yet even though EPA has confirmed on multiple occasions that coal ash does not trigger its own toxicity test to be labeled as hazardous, regulation was proposed by the EPA in June 2010 that would do just that. EPA's regulation would have prevented coal ash from being governed under the municipal solid waste programs despite its nonhazardous nature and EPA saying in its proposed rule that it preferred the municipal solid waste option.

The results of EPA's regulations would have been devastating effects on jobs, higher utility rates at home, and crippling of a very successful emerging byproducts industry.

H.R. 2273 strikes the right balance to provide certainty to producers and recyclers of coal combustion byproducts at a time when recyclers do not have time to wait. It also facilitates a safe and appropriate disposal and monitoring of coal combustion byproducts.

The bill establishes, for the first time ever, comprehensive Federal standards specific to coal ash disposal. These new standards for the management and disposal of coal combustion residuals are based on existing Federal regulations issued by EPA to protect human health and the environment.

H.R. 2273 provides a benchmark for States to regulate under their existing municipal solid waste programs, which are already required to meet this Federal baseline of protection. These standards will include groundwater protection and detection and monitoring, liners at landfills, corrective action when environmental damage occurs, structural stability criteria, financial assurance, and recordkeeping.

EPA will continue to have an oversight role to ensure States are meeting their obligations. EPA will review the contents of a State permit program and determine whether it meets the minimum specifications set in H.R. 2273. They will also review State implementation of permit programs to make sure States are implementing a permit program meeting the minimum specifications.

However, discretion will remain with the States to regulate coal ash even more stringently than the Federal standards set in H.R. 2273. And should a State fail to meet these baseline standards or decline to regulate coal ash, EPA has the authority under the bill to come into a State and operate a program.

H.R. 2273 received strong 3-1 bipartisan support when it was favorably passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee. We have continued to work hard since then with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to clarify and address additional concerns reflected in the manager's amendment. This has resulted in a bipartisan product that empowers States, saves jobs, controls public and private costs, and protects people and the environment.

H.R. 2273 has endorsements by a diverse stakeholder community as well from the Environmental Council of the States, State environmental officials, the beneficial use community, labor unions, and a coalition of regulated stakeholders.

Mr. Chairman, some of our colleagues are going to oppose this bill based upon this information or misguided policy. That is unfortunate. We will hear plenty about that in this debate. I urge Members to pay attention to the debate as many of our Nation's environmental laws already apply to the concerns being raised. More laws requiring the same thing to be done that is required in other laws do not improve the environment nor the law. We need to be serious about that point.

Most importantly, our economy continues to struggle and businesses are trying to figure out how to get out from underneath the weight of overly burdensome regulations. H.R. 2273 is a jobs bill that gives us yet another chance in the House to regulatory certainty and unemployment relief with passage of H.R. 2273.

This bill protects the working men and women of this country. It encourages jobs in road building and construction industries and encourages an affordable and more secure standard of living in this country for all Americans and their families. This bill is worthy of all my colleagues' support.

I urge my colleagues to vote for H.R. 2273, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Madam Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I will just tell my friend from Florida, H.R. 2273 includes structural integrity inspection requirements on impoundments that do not exist today. They allow only those facilities that are structurally sound and operating in a protective manner to continue to operate.

In this Kingston debate, what is never mentioned is that in the cleanup of the Kingston spill, all that waste went into nonhazardous landfills because they were not hazards. This is really a debate about hazardous and nonhazardous. EPA has numerous times ruled that coal combustion residual is not hazardous. That's why there's confusion.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Thank you, Madam Chairman.

I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Just to my friend from Virginia, I hope he will look at the manager's amendment, because in the manager's amendment it beefs up the list of constituents for groundwater detection and assessment monitoring specific to coal combustion residuals. This is something we received from your side of the aisle that they wanted more clarity. That's what the manager's amendment does on runoff aspects of the Clean Water Act.

The other thing is, if the toxic sludge, as you had defined it, was so toxic, why did it go into municipal landfills and not into toxic landfills?

The reality is the cleanup materials did not go into toxic landfills. So we just want to clear up some false statements here.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Madam Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Just to my friend from Minnesota, I would quote the United Mine Workers letter that says: According to a June study, there's an estimate of the 183,000 to 363,000 possible job losses if we do not pass this bill. So for those who really want to effect, there will be--I mean, this claim that this hurts the recycling when, then, you define coal combustion residuals as ``toxic'' is nonsensical. It really makes no sense.

If you really want to encourage recycling, this bill protects the recycling industry. It protects coal, fly ash from going into concrete. If you label this ``toxic,'' which is what EPA's trying to do, that's very misleading. And I think even my friends on the other side are having a hard time grappling with what the EPA's trying to do because that's the direction we want to do, they want to move it to.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Madam Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I just want to remind my colleagues that they will be interested to know the EPA noted in its June 2010 proposed regulation for coal combustion residuals that municipal solid waste rules provide an appropriate, comprehensive framework for regulating coal combustion residuals. That's from the EPA, the same EPA people say we're trying to gut.

And I will continue to hold up the Veritas study that says, because of the recycling aspect of coal ash that goes into concrete, if you claim it to be toxic, you can no longer use coal ash in concrete for roads and for bridges and for buildings. That's the debate. And then when you tear down those structures, they would have to go in the toxic landfills. I also remind my colleagues that, from the spill, none of the spill cleanup went to toxic landfills.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Madam Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

To my friend from Virginia, he is correct that some States have laxer standards. In fact, your Governor sent us a letter in which I quote, ``H.R. 2273 is a realistic approach to dealing with CCR, although it would require effort to implement in Virginia.''

So our point is this is going to help those States that are weak to implement higher standards. That's just your Governor, but that's what he says in a letter to us in support of this legislation.

If you label something ``toxic,'' it's not going to be reused, I can guarantee you, just because of the threat to the coal combustion residual community. The recyclers have no market. Who wants to build a school with concrete when the EPA may, 6 months or a year from now, say, That concrete is all toxic? So it's already had a negative impact in that job sector, and we've quoted studies both back and forth.

The manager's amendment requires an assessment for all of these constituents that you identified. I would just highlight the fact that just because it's a constituent doesn't mean it's hazardous.

This blue line is the hazardous level.

The green is the amount.

You could make the claim that there is hazardous material in Honey Nut Cheerios. The question is: What's the amount? And that's what this gets to is the amount.

EPA has consistently said this doesn't raise to the standard of toxic. Even under the Clinton administration, when I served here, their EPA said it doesn't rise to the standard. The fear of EPA involvement is what's causing a problem in the recycling sector. Where is all this waste going to go? It's going to fill up the landfills. In 2 years, all the landfills will be filled up unless we continue to recycle this coal fly ash.


Mr. MORAN. Will the gentleman yield?


Mr. SHIMKUS. I yield to the gentleman from Virginia.


Mr. MORAN. As we know, airstreams and rivers and other bodies of water don't stop at a State's border. If that is the case, how is it fair for one State to let that pollution go into a downstream State's water? That's our concern.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Reclaiming my time, the manager's amendment that will be debated will talk about, for the first time, an analysis on run-on and runoff, which was the recommendation from the folks on your side of the aisle for us to consider, which we have now included. We'll take that up in the manager's amendment debate when we get to the amendment.


Mr. WAXMAN. Will the gentleman yield?


Mr. SHIMKUS. You have a lot of time, but I would be happy to yield. But I do want to have time to close.


Mr. WAXMAN. Thank you very much.

You've made the claim that we're trying to define this and label it as hazardous, which is a stigma. I understand that and I agree with that point, but I don't think we ought to deny that
there are in coal ash relatively high concentrations that are hazardous and that, if they're improperly managed, they could leach out and pose a substantial present or potential hazard.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Reclaiming my time, that's why this new standard under the municipal and solid waste act will have liners for the first time. Right now, there are no liners. That's a better argument from past years, but this is a fix. This is a fix to that issue of leaching out. This is a fix to the possibility of the damage because we're going to be able to look at that in working in conjunction with the EPA, and of course, the people closest to the citizens are the State and local levels.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Madam Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

This has been a good discussion and a good debate. With regard to the State border issue in our opening statements and comments, what we highlighted was the fact that current Federal law applies to hazardous material. CERCLA still applies, and EPA air quality standards still apply. Those laws are still in effect across States. If they are having an impact, EPA has authority under CERCLA and under RCRA, with imminent and substantial endangerment, to take action to force a remedy and cleanup.

So our debate has always been that that's covered. Let's try to address the impoundment issue, the leaching issue, some standards. The Municipal Solid Waste laws are very, very successful. I would argue, if you want to talk about toxicity, there are probably many more chemicals in a municipal solid waste landfill than the 7 to 12 that you mentioned in coal combustion residual; and out of the 80 tests, the standards are much lower than the toxic standard under this test.

So this is a focus on jobs. This is a focus on recycling. That sector is being ravaged just by the threat. This is an important bill, and I am glad my colleague from West Virginia has brought this to this Chamber. It has been a great debate, and I look forward to the amendment discussion.

Madam Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. SHIMKUS. To my friend from West Virginia, my response is that it does not.

My amendment keeps that door to EPA alternative regulation closed and locked. The language the gentleman cites merely references law that is already on the books, as you heard in the general debate. Section 4010(c) of RCRA was enacted years ago to protect human health and the environment. My amendment merely clarifies that your bill does not change that.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Again to my colleague and friend from West Virginia, my amendment in no way reduces the administrator's authority to take into account facility capabilities. That authority is unchanged by both my amendment and your underlying bill.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Thank you.

My friend from Massachusetts has great rhetorical skills, and I have finally made it to the big time where I can do it as managing a bill and addressing amendments.

He wasn't on the floor when we talked about the letter from the Governor of Virginia, who admits that this bill is going to force the State of Virginia to do more. It's because of this bill, he says,--and I quoted it before--that will require effort to implement in Virginia, such as regulatory amendments for conformance, and notifying and seeking EPA approval.

So here is the Governor saying, We support this bill, and we know we're going to have to do more.

I think that's positive.

We're talking about how H.R. 2273 already includes structural integrity requirements that would allow only those facilities that are operating in a protective manner to continue to operate. Moreover, EPA has just completed a nationwide evaluation--I'm sure you're going to be happy to hear this, Mr. Markey--and in this evaluation they said that they have found none, zero, zip of these impoundments to be unsafe.

Now, that's our own EPA. And we're glad that they're out. They're now checking these impoundment areas. I think a lot of this is a result of moving this bill and having now at least a standard for liners. I think from our testimony in subcommittee, liners are important. Liners are what we do in municipal solid waste. Liners are what we should do with coal combustion residuals. Well, this bill ensures that we have liners in the coal combustion residual ponds and facilities.

So I think it's a very exciting time. It protects jobs. It helps for, obviously, the recycling of this in the industry sector. It helps save jobs. I think the amendment only hurts the passage and movement of this bill.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the Markey amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Thank you, Madam Chairman.

A couple of things. The gentleman's well-meaning amendment requires public notice and comment, including from the administrator of the EPA, before the State submits its certification paperwork to the administrator of the EPA.

There's confusion as to what this bill does. For the first time, States have to conform to the EPA standards. I read this before in another part of the debate on page 10. If the administrator determines--this is the administrator of the EPA. If the administrator determines that a State determination under this paragraph does not accurately reflect the need for the management of coal combustion residuals in the State, the administrator may treat such determination as deficient.

So there's really no purpose for my colleague's amendment. The EPA has the ability to say good State program, bad State program. The Governor of Virginia says we're already going to have to do more than we do now because of this bill. And section 7004(b) of RCRA requires public participation.

So part of our debate is: Why do we have to continue to put more laws on the books when those provisions are already covered under RCRA? Requires public participation in any enforcement of any regulation guideline, information, or program under this act, including at the Federal and State level. This requirement is not waived, it's not amended, it's not altered or affected under this piece of legislation. Those requirements under RCRA apply to H.R. 2273.

The gentleman's amendment is unnecessary, it's duplicative, and I ask my colleagues to reject it.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Thank you, Madam Chairman.

Let me thank my colleague for offering an amendment to the bill.

A couple of things have been discussed during the debate. Obviously, she mentioned Kingston, Tennessee. What she has to remember is that was TVA. That was a government entity. That wasn't a natural disaster. That was a manmade disaster by a Federal Government, in essence, an agency.

I've stated numerous times what this bill does. It sets a standard that the States have to comply with to get certified by the EPA. Of course, in that process, under Federal law currently and locally, there is an opportunity for comment.

In addition, EPA, within the last week, announced that soon it will be seeking comments under the Notice of Data Availability, or what is referred to as NODA, on the adequacy of State programs--this would fall directly in this; that's why this amendment is duplicative--as well as the State's comments on EPA's proposed rule for coal ash.

This NODA was not required by law and certainly was not the result of a statute. This is something that the agency is doing. While the study is found to be innocuous, it does have a cost to taxpayers and the agency, and so in that aspect.

My colleague also is following this a little bit. The debate is coal ash, or fly ash, which is in impounded areas that we are now going to have some standards and liners, is used in recycling. It's used in road construction. It's used in building schools. The whole reason why we're here today is to ensure that the recycling sector can still do that if the EPA continues to label it as ``toxic,'' which does not meet the standard of a toxicity based upon an analysis.

I love this, ``toxic sludge.'' You can pick up dirt, and there's toxic elements in the dirt. The question is: To what standard does it rise? And if it doesn't rise to the level of toxicity, then it's not considered. And that's what this debate is all about, allowing the recycling of this. And if we don't do this, all our landfills will be filled with coal ash, and then we'll have to build more landfills for municipal solid waste.

So that's why I appreciate my colleague from West Virginia in this great piece of legislation. The administration has not issued a veto threat for this, and I expect it to be well received in the other Chamber once it moves over.

With that, again, I ask my colleagues to reject the Jackson amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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