Thursday, July 14, 2011

Until we see this on Murray Lane...

...Marsha Blackburn won't give a damn.

From today's Tennessean...

Coal ash could be treated as city trash

WASHINGTON — A House committee approved legislation Wednesday that would bar federal regulation of coal ash as hazardous waste.

The bill, passed 35-12 by the Energy and Commerce Committee, now moves to the House floor, where a Republican majority probably will pass it.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, the only Tennessee lawmaker on the committee, voted for the measure.

Six Democrats joined the committee’s Republicans in voting for the bill.

The Environmental Protection Agency began urging regulation after more than 5 million cubic yards of coal ash sludge spilled from TVA’s Kingston power plant onto the banks of the Emory River in December 2008. The ongoing cleanup effort could cost ratepayers more than $1 billion.

TVA's Kingston disaster

While barring the EPA from regulating coal ash, the legislation would allow states to treat the ash as municipal waste, placing it in the same category as household garbage and cleaning chemicals, wastewater and construction debris.

Landfills and ponds holding coal ash generally would be subject to the same rules for design, lining and groundwater testing as landfills containing municipal garbage.

The bill would allow the EPA to step in if it finds a state isn’t properly disposing of coal ash under that state’s municipal waste program.

Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee pointed to the Kingston spill as evidence that states’ disposal methods aren’t safe enough, especially in holding ponds where wet ash is stored. Five of TVA’s plants dispose of coal ash in wet impoundments. Six use dry storage.

“I don’t believe anyone really thinks we should be treating wet impoundments of coal ash the same way we treat our municipal garbage,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa. “The Tennessee thing was a wet impoundment, and that’s a real problem.”

Rep. Henry Waxman, the committee’s top Democrat, said the bill wouldn’t protect public health.

“It won’t make high-risk impoundments of coal ash safe,” he said. “It won’t stop contamination of drinking water. It will establish a weak federal program designed to maintain the status quo.”

But Rep. John Shimkus, the Illinois Republican who is chairman of the committee’s environment panel, said the bill would “prevent issues like the one that caused the problems at TVA in Tennessee.”

“State officials affirmed their expertise and desire to regulate this area without federal control,” Shimkus said. “Given the unique challenges of each individual state, I believe this is the best approach.”

If the bill is approved by the entire House, it will move to the Senate.

Health, job factors

Environmentalists argue that chemicals in coal ash cause cancer and other ailments.

Industry representatives and many Republicans say studies of health risks have been inconclusive, and regulating coal ash as toxic waste would raise utility prices and threaten jobs by stigmatizing products made with the substance.

Almost half of the country’s 131 million tons of coal ash are recycled in wall board, concrete, carpeting, kitchen counters and other household products, according to the American Coal Ash Association.

In June last year, the EPA proposed two options for regulating the waste. One would deem it hazardous and require federal oversight. The other, less stringent option would put states in charge.

The Energy and Commerce Committee also voted Tuesday to require an analysis of the overall impact of EPA regulations on jobs, energy prices and the economy. Blackburn also voted for that bill.

House Republicans also are targeting coal ash regulation in a draft spending bill for fiscal 2012, stipulating that the EPA may not use any money in the bill to regulate coal ash as hazardous waste.