July 17, 2015

Manchin and Hoeven Introduce Updated Coal Ash Recycling Legislation

Measure will provide certainty, empower local oversight, and ensure good environmental stewardship

Washington, D.C. –U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Hoeven (R-ND) today introduced bipartisan legislation that will create a states-first approach to regulating coal ash that provides both certainty for the safe and efficient recycling of coal ash and an enforceable state permit program for the disposal of coal ash.  This legislation, which is companion legislation to Congressmen Shimkus and McKinley’s bill in the House, builds on the Senators’ past efforts to find a bicameral, bipartisan solution for the recycling and disposal of coal ash. 

“The overregulation of coal ash by the EPA would threaten vital industries and needlessly cost West Virginia and the nation more jobs, neither of which we can afford," Manchin said. “This legislation gives us a commonsense fix: let each state use existing EPA health and environment regulations to set up their own permitting program that allows them to recycle and reuse coal ash. This approach will protect jobs and our economy, while giving families and businesses the certainty they need to help restore confidence.”

“Coal ash is a byproduct of coal-based electricity generation that has been safely recycled for buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure for years,” Hoeven said. “North Dakota serves as a good example of how states can properly manage the disposal of coal residuals with good environmental stewardship, and at the same time, allow for its beneficial use in buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure.”   The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final coal ash rule, announced last December, correctly regulates coal ash as a non-hazardous material, but does not provide non-hazardous designation certainty to coal ash recyclers or create an effective enforcement mechanism for the disposal of coal ash.  

The new bill will establish a state permitting program for coal ash under a section of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. It would ensure coal ash storage sites have requirements for timely and effective groundwater monitoring, protective lining and properly engineered structures needed to protect communities and the environment. States that prefer could grant oversight to the EPA should they want to do so.  

The Hoeven-Manchin bill, however, addresses these concerns by:  

• Providing the certainty needed to ensure we can keep recycling coal ash by permanently designating it as non-hazardous;

• Incorporating standards in EPA’s coal ash rule for disposal in enforceable, mandatory state permit programs;

• Providing state regulators the same flexibility for implementing the groundwater monitoring and corrective action standards that is currently provided under existing Municipal Solid Waste regulations.