Jay, McKinley spar on coal ash provision

(The Charleston Gazette 5-2-2-2012) CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va, stressed his support for coal ash recycling on Wednesday and said statements made by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va, about his position were misleading. "I do not and have never supported federal efforts to label coal ash as a hazardous waste, and he knows it. "Reuse and recycling of coal ash is absolutely in the best interests of West Virginia and the country. We just need to make sure that concerns about health and the environment are addressed, too."
McKinley included a provision about recycling coal ash in the House Transportation Bill, legislation now being considered by the Senate.
"I was frankly shocked at his public statement saying the coal ash language is 'going down' and how he [Rockefeller] will work to remove it from the transportation bill," McKinley said last week.
"Currently, coal-fired power plants in 48 states around the country create coal ash every day, but there are no federal standards for safe disposal of the product. This is the first time in 30 years that Congress is offering environmentally safe standards for the disposal of coal ash," McKinley said.
Rockefeller said adding a coal ash provision to the Transportation Bill is a political maneuver to make it harder to pass the legislation.
"Let's be honest," Rockefeller said on Wednesday. "Coal ash and two other environmental provisions were added to the otherwise empty House highway bill in order to create controversy, not to solve problems.
"Setting standards for coal ash impoundments is, and always has been, an environmental question. Pushing this or any other controversial provision will bring down a highway bill that West Virginia workers desperately need," Rockefeller said. 
"I'm going to keep working on coal ash reuse, but I'm not going to pretend to West Virginians that it's ready or right for the highway bill. We need roads and bridges and the jobs that go with them in our state, not political games.
"House Republicans want to cut transportation funding more deeply than ever before, and they should stop trying to distract West Virginians from the harm of their real agenda," Rockefeller said.
Last week, McKinley said if the coal ash provision in the Transportation bill "goes down, it puts this issue and others like it in the hands of unelected bureaucrats to make decisions that will ultimately affect all of us.
"This bill protects jobs and public health by ensuring that needed provisions are put in place so that the 48 states around the country can continue recycling coal ash."
McKinley criticized the Environmental Protection Agency in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
"The culture of the Environmental Protection Agency values bullying and threatening companies. Energy producers provide millions of American jobs and drive our economy.
"They should expect fairer treatment than the modern day equivalent of public crucifixion. I hope the EPA will look into their internal culture and practices and root out these anti-energy sentiments," McKinley said.
The EPA has stated that coal ash, a residue from coal-fired power plants, includes contaminants that are tied to cancer and other illnesses.
McKinley believes his coal ash amendment to the Transportation Bill will also save $110 billion in construction costs by allowing the use of coal ash in making cement for roads.
John Sconyers, a West Virginia Sierra Club leader, said Monday, "Coal ash is dumped by the millions of tons in West Virginia and other states. It pollutes our groundwater with potent toxics and threatens communities if ash pond dams would fail."
"Coal ash is basically unregulated. The coal ash amendment would guarantee that coal ash will never be regulated," Sconyers said in a statement he released on Monday.
"Congress should pass a clean Transportation Bill that creates good jobs and builds American infrastructure."
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