Last week the
U.S. House of Representatives voted strongly in favor of a bill that would
prohibit federal oversight of coal ash. The bill was sponsored by Rep. David
For nearly two
years, NUVO has followed the course of a long-running argument about coal ash,
the toxic-metal-laden byproduct of burning coal for electricity. An EPA
decision on how to handle the waste has long been in the works. The recent vote
by the House could put a halt to a decision before the EPA is finally able to
make a ruling.
desperately seeking to curb what they term federal overreach and neuter the
Environmental Protection Agency is gaining momentum for getting this
legislation passed as law.
Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) just days ago introduced a
bill into the Senate that is identical to the House bill prohibiting the EPA
from regulating coal ash.
Both the White
House and the EPA oppose these bills, but President Obama has not said he would
veto the bill if it were to reach his desk.
for this kind of legislation comes from a nation panicked about the economy,
specifically jobs, and politicians scared of losing their own. It is the
contention of many coal industry advocates that federal regulation of coal ash
would mean higher utility prices and an effective strangulation of the coal ash
sponsor, Rep. David McKinley says, "To those who lack compassion and
understanding about the real world — these are real jobs at stake here
— it's really that simple."
coal ash regulation contest the notion that stricter rules on its disposal
would make jobs disappear; a Tufts University economist even claims that
regulation and the corresponding increase in expenditures for disposal, waste
management and construction of new facilities would actually create close to
This is a
feeling echoed by organizations like Earthjustice which have stated that the coal
and recycling industry is not as fragile as some would have the public believe,
suggesting that tougher standards for disposal would lead to increased
innovation for recycling, a positive for the ash recycling industry.
or not, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) had this to say about the proposed legislation:
"I think it would be disastrous to turn our back on air and water
[protections] in an effort to create jobs."
With the bill
the states would be responsible for rules on how coal ash is handled. This is
something the state of Tennessee was in charge of when an insufficient earthen
dam burst at the Kingston TVA power plant, letting loose 1 billion gallons of
coal ash sludge, filling streams and swallowing nearby homes. The cleanup
effort for this spill has cost about 1.2 billion dollars.
close to 140 sites around the nation with contaminated ground or surface water
from coal ash contamination. With the recent action of Congress, this problem
may not be going anywhere.