House Panel Prunes EPA Regs

(Electric Co-op 7-18-2011) The House Energy and Commerce Committee has voted to advance legislation to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste.
The committee approved a bill July 13 that would set up a new state-run plan to handle coal combustion residuals, a byproduct of coal-based plants that is commonly recycled as building and construction materials.
Supporters said the new process will empower state and local officials closest to the problem to address environmental concerns, without costing utilities and ratepayers billions of dollars in new regulatory costs.
The Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, sponsored by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., passed with a bipartisan 35-12 vote.
“Beneficial reuse of coal combustion residuals benefits the economy and jobs as well as the environment,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.
The committee action was the second in two days to clip EPA’s wings. On July 12, the panel voted 33-13 to set up a new federal interagency committee to review proposed and recently issued EPA regulations for their impact on jobs and the economy.
The committee also voted to delay implementation of two major EPA rules. One would require utilities to use maximum achievable control technology on their units to reduce emissions of mercury and pollutants such as chromium and nickel. The second is aimed at airborne emissions that cross state lines in the eastern part of the country.
Kirk Johnson, senior vice president, government relations for NRECA, said co-ops will continue to support legislation that ensures electricity will remain affordable for members by preventing excessive regulations from unnecessarily increasing the cost of power.
EPA has been weighing two approaches to coal ash regulation, an issue that has been simmering since a December 2008 spill at a Tennessee Valley Authority plant. The more controversial options would designate coal ash as a hazardous waste for the first time, subjecting impoundments and ash landfills at coal plants to federal requirements for hazardous waste management and disposal.
The committee bill preempts EPA action, which is not expected until 2013. Several Democrats signed on to the legislation after receiving assurances that states will have to meet minimum standards.
“You can’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa.
Both bills are expected to receive favorable treatment on the House floor, but Senate action is uncertain.
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