House Releases Policy Paper on Coal Ash

Dec 10, 2014

Little Blue Run Coal Ash Impoundment
Credit Wiki

Today from Capitol Hill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a policy paper that addresses coal ash disposal.

The House’s policy paper is based largely on legislation Congressman David McKinley spearheaded, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act. The legislation passed through the House last year. It outlines state-controlled regulatory management procedures for dealing with one of the waste by-products of coal-fired power plants: coal ash. 

The House legislation is much like the EPA’s proposed carbon regulations in that it sets goals, and leaves it up to individual states on how to meet those requirements.

The legislation was drawn up as the EPA was sued by nearly a dozen environmental groups for not revamping coal-ash regulations in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The coal ash policy paper is released just days before the Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to take final action on the matter.

Business leaders fear the EPA will reclassify the waste as hazardous. Coal ash is often recycled and used as an ingredient in the construction trade, in concrete and drywall. Coal ash is most volatile when it’s precariously stored in settlement ponds, potentially leaching toxins into adjacent water sources.

Power plants in the U.S. produce about 140 million tons of the ash each year and according to the EPA, about 1,000 active coal ash storage sites exist. West Virginia is home to more than twenty sites.

The House policy report concludes, “the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, is a win-win for both the environment and the economy and for EPA and the states, and it should serve as a model to solve future environmental challenges.”