Fact Sheet

H.R. 3797, the Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment (SENSE) Act


H.R. 3797 will ensure environmentally beneficial coal refuse-to-energy facilities, put at risk by EPA rules, can continue to operate and perform significant cleanup activities in Pennsylvania and other areas of coal country.

BACKGROUND: Coal refuse is the aboveground waste product of coal mining found near many abandoned mines. Coal refuse piles pose a number of environmental and safety threats, and the cost of addressing coal refuse has been estimated at $2 billion dollars in Pennsylvania alone, the most impacted state.

Specialized power plants known as coal refuse-to-energy have been developed to recycle the coal refuse by using it as an energy source to generate affordable, reliable electricity. There are 19 of these coal-refuse to energy facilities in the country, including 14 in Pennsylvania. In addition to creating an estimated 1,200 direct and 4,000 indirect jobs in areas that have been economically distressed for many years, these facilities have thus far removed 214 million tons of coal refuse from the environment, at no expense to taxpayers.

Despite the extraordinary environmental benefits of these facilities, the EPA has included certain emissions limits in the agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) that are not achievable for all coal refuse-to-energy plants. If these facilities shut down, the communities served by them will lose the electricity, jobs, and environmental cleanup provided by these coal refuse-to-energy plants.

Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA) has introduced H.R. 3797 to provide for targeted modifications to CSAPR and MATS as they apply to coal refuse-to-energy facilities. The SENSE Act is a commonsense solution that will allow innovative coal refuse-to-energy facilities to generate affordable, reliable energy and continue their essential environmental remediation work in a responsible manner.

What the SENSE Act Will Do: 

Adjust the Allowances in CSAPR: The bill would allocate additional sulfur dioxide (SO2) allowances to coal refuse-to-energy facilities. The allowances would be reduced elsewhere in the program so the overall cap does not change.

Provide a New Compliance Means under MATS: The bill would create an alternative means of demonstrating compliance with the hydrochloric acid (HCl) standard by using SO2 as a proxy and assuming that a 93 percent reduction in SO2 demonstrates compliance with the HCl standard.

Under these provisions, these coal refuse-to-energy facilities will continue to be subject to emissions limitation and achieve substantial declines in emissions.

Additional Information: Background Memo, Hearing Testimony and Background Documents, including  Testimony of Rep. Keith J. Rothfus, Testimony of ARIPPA, Testimony of Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation

Fact Sheet