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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington DC


Mr. HOEVEN. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation on another matter, important energy legislation for our country. I am today introducing the Hoeven-Conrad-Baucus Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act of 2012.

In my home State of North Dakota there is a large powerplant just north of the State capital in Bismarck. It is a coal creek power station. Now this power station generates 1,100 megawatts of electricity every year. There are two 550 megawatt plants. It has the latest, greatest technology emission control and clean coal technology. They capture the steam that was formally exhausted from the plant. They capture that steam and use it to run an ethanol plant. They produce transportation fuel with steam, a by-product of the electric generation process.

One of the other things they do, instead of land filling the coal ash, fly ash, or coal residuals, they recycle. So, in essence, they take that coal ash--they work with a natural resource company, Headwaters, based out of Utah, and they turn the coal ash into a concrete product, FlexCrete. It is used to make roads, bridges, buildings, and also products like shingles. They make building materials.

So whereas they used to take about 600,000 tons a year of coal residuals and coal ash flash and landfill it, and it costs $6 a ton or so to landfill it, now they take that 600,000 tons a year of fly ash and residuals and turn it into building products.

The difference instead of paying to dispose of something and now being paid to recycle something is about a $16 million a year revenue item for that plant. That means lower cost for electricity for businesses in States such as the great State of North Dakota and the great State of Minnesota and other States as well. It truly benefits our consumers, our families, and our economy. It benefits small businesses throughout the upper Midwest. So it is truly a great example of American ingenuity and innovation.

In fact, I have a picture right here. This is the North Dakota Heritage Center. Right now there is a $50 million expansion being constructed in that Heritage Center which is located on the capital grounds in Bismarck. It is a $50 million expansion. They are using building materials made of coal ash for this facility. That is what it is going to look like after they do this $50 million expansion.

Let me give another example. This is the National Energy Center of Excellence at Bismarck State College. It is a 2-year college that trains people for the energy industry. It is located right above the Missouri River. This beautiful window overlooks the Missouri River. Again this is a building constructed with building materials made of fly ash. We can see how this product is being used and how effectively this is being used.

As a matter of fact, if we look nationwide, by recycling coal ash we reduce energy consumption by 162 trillion Btus every year. That is the amount of energy we would use to 1.7 million homes in a year. It is pretty substantial energy savings. Or measure it in terms of water use. By recycling coal ash, we reduce water usage by 32 billion gallons annually. That is about one-third of the total amount of water that the State of California uses in a year.

Why do I tell the story? Because right now the EPA is looking at changing the regulation of coal ash. They are looking at changing the regulation of coal ash to doing it under subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The problem is that is the hazardous waste section. Right now coal ash is regulated under subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which is the nonhazardous waste section. The EPA is looking at making that change in spite of the fact that the Department of Energy, the Federal Highway Administration, State regulatory agencies, and the EPA itself have done studies, and those studies have shown that is not a toxic waste.

The EPA first proposed this new regulation in June of 2010. This regulation would truly undermine the industry, drive up costs, and eliminate jobs when our economy can least afford it. In fact, according to industry estimates, it would increase electricity costs by up to almost $50 billion annually and eliminate 300,000 American jobs.

Let me elaborate. Meeting the regulatory disposal requirements under the EPA's subtitle C proposal would cost between $250 and $450 per ton as opposed to about $100 per ton under the current system. That would translate into $47 billion in terms of burden on electricity generators that use coal and, of course, most importantly, their customers who would see their bills increased. As I said, overall it would cost about 300,000 American jobs for our economy.

That is why I am introducing the Hoeven-Conrad-Baucus Recycling and Oversight Act, which is S. 3512, and it has very strong bipartisan support. It is truly a bipartisan bill, including 12 Republican sponsors and 12 Democratic sponsors. The Republican sponsors include myself, Senator McConnell, Senator Portman, Senator Boozman, Senator Blunt, Senator Ron Johnson, Senator Moran, Senator Alexander, Senator Toomey, Senator Graham, Senator Thune, and Senator Hatch. The Democratic cosponsors include Senator Conrad, Senator Baucus, Senator Kohl, Senator Landrieu, Senator Manchin, Senator Warner, Senator Pryor, Senator McCaskill, Senator Ben Nelson, Senator Bill Nelson, Senator Casey, and Senator Webb.

I wish to thank them for their willingness to join together in a bipartisan way--12 Republicans, 12 Democrats--coming together to provide the kind of energy legislation that is going to truly help move this country forward, empowering not only more energy development but better environmental stewardship.

This legislation is similar to H.R. 2273, which was sponsored by Representative David McKinley of West Virginia in the House, and it passed the House with strong bipartisan support. This legislation is very similar. We have made some enhancements, but it is very similar.

The bill not only preserves coal ash recycling by preventing these by-products from being treated as hazardous, it also establishes--and this is important because it is also about good environmental stewardship--it also establishes comprehensive Federal standards for coal ash disposal. Under this legislation, States can set up their own permitting program for the management and the disposal of coal ash. These programs would be required to be based on existing EPA regulations that protect human health and the environment. If a State does not implement an acceptable permitting program, then EPA regulates the program for the State. As a result, States and industry will know where they stand under the bill, since the benchmarks for what constitutes a successful State program will be set in statute. EPA can say yes, the State does meet those standards, or no, it does not, but the EPA cannot move the goalposts.

This is a States-first approach that provides regulatory certainty. Let me repeat that. This is a States-first approach that provides regulatory certainty, and it is that regulatory certainty we need to stimulate private investment that will deploy the new technologies that will not only produce more energy but will produce better environmental stewardship.

What is certain is that under this bill, coal ash disposal sites will be required to meet established standards. Those established 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.

This legislation is needed to protect jobs and help reduce the cost of homes and roads as well as to help reduce electric bills.

I wish to thank both Republicans and Democrats who have taken a leadership role in this effort as original sponsors of the legislation. I especially wish to express thanks to my fellow Senator from North Dakota, Mr. Conrad, as well as Senator Baucus of Montana and their staffs for the hard work that has gone into this legislation. I urge our colleagues to join us in this important energy legislation.


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