Senate effort is underway to block more restrictive federal regulation of coal
combustion — and its ash-pond byproducts.
legislation comes on the heels of a retaining bluff collapse in Oak Creek, Wis.,
which sent coal ash
ashspilling into Lake Michigan, which provides drinking water to more than
40 million people.
Residuals Reuse and Management Act," or Senate Bill 1751, sponsored by Sen.
John Hoeven, R-N.D., would block legislation instituting federal regulation of coal
byproducts. The U.S. House of Representatives passed an identical bill
an identical billlast month.
coal combustion is regulated by state policy and inspection.
In 2008, a coal
ash spill that covered 300 acres in Kingston, Tenn., cost the Tennessee Valley
Authority $1.2 billion in clean-up.
disaster prompted President Barack Obama
Obamato propose rules for the 678 coal ash ponds that could possibly
contaminate drinking water supplies.
In the U.S.,
about 131 million tons of coal ash are produced each year by
coal-fired power plants.
coal contains levels of arsenic, chromium and mercury — among other
things — it cannot be dumped or stored where rainwater can leach the
metals and move them to aquifers.
cases, when large quantities of coal ash are stored, it's stored wet to prevent
dust. The result is coal ash ponds, which are susceptible to breaching and
leaking into other water supplies.
of the bill say that it would preserve jobs and would save the U.S. between
$1.7 billion and $5 billion per year over 20 years, according to research by
the Edison Electric Institute in Washington.
bipartisan legislation empowers states, and just as importantly, it helps to
preserve and create jobs that our nation so badly needs," Hoeven said in a news
release last month about the bill.
bill were not to pass in the Senate, supporters say that it would cost the coal
industry more than $110 billion over two decades.
Coats, R-Ind., supports the bill.
EPA's narrow ideological agenda is negatively impacting Hoosier families and
businesses," he said in a news release. "More harmful federal rules will not create jobs, bring
down energy prices or encourage American energy production."
Indiana, the coal industry provides 3,083 jobs.
employees are asking Washington to loosen the grasp of government regulation,"
Coats said. "As the president travels across the country selling his own jobs
plan, his administration continues to impose regulations that eliminate
opposed to the bill say that without coal combustion regulation, there is a
severe risk of harmful pollutants reaching drinking water supplies.
ponds are threatening hundreds of communities and their drinking water
supplies," said Lisa Evans, a lawyer for the activist group Earthjustice.
"The current approach in Congress is to ignore the problem and hope it goes
recently completed a survey of the water sources that run the risk of having a
disaster like those in Wisconsin and Tennessee.
to their findings, three Indianapolis-area power stations are at high-risk for
an incident similar to Oak Creek.
Valley Generating Station had one high-hazard pond, while Harding Street Power
Station had two high-hazard ponds, according to a study by the EPA.
every day this House has been in session, there has been a vote to curtail EPA
protections. That is absolutely unconscionable," Evans said. "Too many
Americans live near toxic coal ash dumps and unless federal action is taken
soon, another TVA disaster is just waiting to happen.
shouldn't have to wait for more destruction or loss of life to act."
Richard Lugar, R-Ind., has not yet made a public comment regarding the bill.
time, representatives from EPA's Region 5, which includes Indiana, declined to
appropriate to comment on pending legislation at this time," an EPA
It is likely that the Senate will vote
on the bill by the end of November.