McKinley rallying for push on coal ash reuse bill - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

McKinley rallying for push on coal ash reuse bill

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Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., is rallying stakeholders to take another stab at passing legislation that would make it easier to reuse the residual product of coal combustion.

The Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013 would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from designating the material as a hazardous waste product and set up a state-based regulatory program to monitor coal ash. Legislation similar to McKinley's bill has passed the House, but failed to move through the Senate.

McKinley said that while uncertainty exists about how the EPA plans to regulate, markets for coal ash reuse remain hesitant to engage with reuse of a product that is generated by power companies in almost every state in the U.S. Coal ash can be used in agricultural applications, cement, concrete, wallboard, and roofing materials.

"It's not right," McKinley said. "There's a stigma attached to it as long as it is an unresolved issue. … Let's get that resolved. That's what this legislation does."

McKinley said there have been slight alterations to the bill this time around to handle concerns of the Environmental Protection Agency. With those changes made, he said, he doesn't anticipate friction from the agency.

"While were waiting for resolution of this problem the EPA has no timetable for moving forward on regulation," said Tom Addams with the American Coal Ash Association. … Meanwhile markets suffer."

Addams and a number of other stakeholders convened at a press event hosted by McKinley to boost awareness of the bill.

McKinley said with so much waste being produced, there's no reason not to support a means to utilize that material.

"As long as electricity is produced you're going to get that product," McKinley said.

The legislation also sets deadlines for issuing permits, creates an interim compliance period for many of the requirements, and identifies criteria to assess whether a state permit program is meeting the minimum requirements.

Addressing the concern of coal waste impoundment failure, the bill also adds stability and inspection measures.  

"Currently, coal-fired power plants in 48 states create coal ash every day, but there are no federal standards for safe disposal of the material. One approach would designate coal ash as a hazardous material, which would prevent its use in everyday products and ultimately cost 316,000 jobs," McKinley said in a news release issued June 4. "Our approach sets minimum standards and gives the states flexibility to implement a disposal program that protects the environment and jobs. This is a common sense solution with bipartisan support whose time has come."

The bill also adds suggestions from the Senate including installation of groundwater monitoring at coal ash sites and requirement of an annual inspection.