Rep. David McKinley in The Hill: Congress should vote to protect renewable coal ash

October 14, 2011

This week the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected President Obama's jobs bill. But there is another jobs bill on the horizon, and this one can pass the Senate.

I authored H.R. 2273 to establish a state-based regulatory framework for the disposal and management of coal ash and it is set to hit the House floor today. It will improve the economy and strengthen public health, and unlike most things in Washington these days, is genuinely bipartisan.

Coal ash is an unavoidable byproduct of burning coal to produce electricity. Much of it is recycled to make concrete and other building materials more durable and less water-intensive, which in turn benefits the environment.

Recently, President Obama's EPA has proposed regulating it as a hazardous material, but two EPA studies under the Clinton administration found that coal ash was not hazardous. Another study found ruling coal as a hazardous material could eliminate up to 316,000 jobs over the next 20 years. And already, the stigma the EPA has created surrounding coal ash's use has had a chilling effect on the various industries that recycle it.

H.R. 2273 not only prevents the EPA from regulating it as a hazardous material, but establishes a new regulatory framework, similar but more stringent to that of municipal solid waste landfills, and will safeguard both jobs and public health. The states will have primacy over the regulation of coal ash, but EPA retains its ability to step in when necessary.

A broad coalition of groups stands behind this bill. Nearly all Republicans and the many industries affected support it, of course, but so did one-third of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Democrats -- including those with near-perfect lifetime ratings from the League of Conservation Voters; the United Mine Workers of America, which even supported cap-and-trade; Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat; and the Environmental Council of the States, comprised of the top environmental protection officers in each state.

In its Statement of Administration Policy, the White House notably did not threaten a veto of this bill - perhaps influenced by the 12 Senate Democrats who signed on to a letter earlier this year opposing the EPA's proposal to regulate coal ash as hazardous.

After Republicans worked diligently with the other side of the aisle to make changes to the original bill that satisfied the concerns of industry and environmentalists alike, this bill has a realistic chance to become law.

House Republicans do not oppose regulation. We want clean air and water for our children and grandchildren as much as Democrats do. But it must be responsible regulation that protects jobs. This legislation does just that. Congress won't pass President Obama's jobs bill, but let's pass this one.

Read the article online here.