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Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. RUSH. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee and let him know how much I appreciate not only his leadership on other issues, but particularly his leadership on this issue here.

Mr. Speaker, I stand here astounded, amazed, and bemused at the remarks of the past speaker. You know, he wants the American people to be convinced that fly ash is as healthy to them as it can be and that they should, in fact, maybe go out and go to their local drugstore and ask for a bottle of fly ash so they can sprinkle it over their dinner meal as they would maybe a salad dressing. I don't think that the American people would be pleased with that.

Mr. Speaker, I stand in strong opposition to this motion to instruct. At a time when we are facing historic levels of joblessness in communities around the country, in the African American communities and other minority communities, Republicans are playing chicken with the transportation bill, which is intended to provide American jobs and repair our aging infrastructure. It is not to further the contamination of the water supplies, the air supplies in our most vulnerable communities, so why don't we stop the charade. Why don't we stop the asthmatic assault on the most vulnerable segments, the most vulnerable communities in our Nation.

This motion to instruct contains a deadly and dangerous provision that would only allow more poison, more disease, and more death from one of our Nation's biggest waste products--the deadly, cancerous coal ash that's under discussion today.

Coal ash, I want to remind you, is a waste leftover after thousands of tons of coal are burned at coal-fired power plants, and it is laden from top to bottom with toxins such as mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and lead. These are pollutants that cause cancer, that cause organ disease, breathing problems, neurological damage, developmental problems, and even the final problem, which is death.

Mr. Speaker, title V of H.R. 4348 gives companies an unprecedented ability to pollute under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, even though the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, found some coal ash ponds pose a 1-in-50 risk of cancer related to residents drinking arsenic-contaminated water, a risk that is 2,000 times the EPA's regulatory goal.

Dangerous coal ash disposal affects thousands of U.S. communities, but research informs us that income and race remain strong predictors of the amount of pollution that Americans face. The majority of coal ash is disposed in grossly inadequate dumpsites, which are primarily located in low-income communities, disproportionately impacting those who are least equipped to respond to water contamination and the onslaught of toxic dust in the air.

Mr. Speaker, low-income citizens are more likely to rely on groundwater supplies and less likely to have access to medical insurance and health care.


Mr. RUSH. Mr. Speaker, title V of H.R. 4348 fails to protect communities and their drinking water from toxic coal ash or from another messy spill like the disaster that occurred in Kingston, Tennessee, in 2008.

Mr. Speaker, let me conclude by saying that my State alone produces 4.4 million tons of coal ash annually, and at least 19 coal ash dumpsites have contaminated local water supplies. Additionally, each and every day a steam-fired steamship, the SS Badger, dumps 4 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan, my beloved city of Chicago's primary water supply system.

I urge all of my colleagues to vote against the motion to instruct.


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