The coal fly ash amendment is needed

(Daily Mail 6-21-2012) Recycling fly ash into concrete makes for durable material. What if Congress could pass a bill that would protect public health, provide new markets for coal byproducts, secure thousands of West Virginia jobs, head off utility rate increases, and help repair our state's roads and bridges? Congress can advance these goals by enacting the federal transportation bill, together with bipartisan legislation that strengthens environmental safeguards for fly ash.
A byproduct of coal-burning utilities, recycled fly ash can be blended into the concrete and cement that forms the foundations for roads, highways, bridges and airport runways.
Fly ash recycling is one of the greatest environmental success stories of the last 30 years.
The amount of ash that is recycled has more than tripled since 1990 from roughly 20 million tons to over 60 million tons each year.
The increased use of fly ash in cement production reduces carbon dioxide emissions by over 11 million tons every year, and the energy savings from reusing fly ash are enough to power 1.7 million American homes.
We continue to move more ash out of landfills and into sturdy concrete products.
As a result, fly ash has become the backbone of America's infrastructure.
More than 75 percent of the concrete in transportation projects — $9.9 billion worth — uses recycled fly ash as a partial cement replacement blend.
Here in West Virginia, the state's Department of Transportation specifications call for a 15 to 19 percent substitution of fly ash in our concrete roads and bridges.
Doing so both reduces the upfront cost of building infrastructure, while the increased durability of fly ash makes those roads and bridges last twice as long without needing repair.
Today, highways built with recycled fly ash can be designed to last for 80 years and bridges can stand for a century.
The 2,000-year-old Roman Pantheon stands today because it was built with volcanic ash.
By cutting costs for both building and maintenance, fly ash allows more roadways to be built for less, creating more jobs and saving the taxpayers of West Virginia a lot of money.
Making more money available for transportation projects is urgently important in our state, where 39 percent of the roads are in poor or mediocre condition, 39 percent of bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and 37 percent of urban interstate highways are congested, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Increased fly ash recycling has also been a fast-growing sector of the state's coal industry.
A leader in recycling the byproducts of burning coal, Headwaters has expanded four facilities across West Virginia in the towns of New Haven, Winfield, Glasgow and Lyburn.
With 99 percent of West Virginia's generated electricity coming from 14 coal-fired plants, recycling fly ash also helps utility companies keep their rates down, to the benefit of consumers, including families, companies and local communities.
In spite of these economic and environmental advantages, fly ash recycling has recently been restricted by the uncertainty surrounding Environment Protection Agency's proposed regulatory activity.
The bipartisan congressional legislation provides sensible oversight and promotes greater use of this job-creating, money-saving, environmentally friendly building material.
By encouraging the continued use of recycled fly ash, the bipartisan legislation will secure more than a quarter of a million jobs, according to a Veritas Economic Report, including thousands of jobs here in West Virginia in the coal and construction industries.
West Virginia's congressional delegation, including Reps. David McKinley, Nick Rahall and Shelley Moore Capito, as well as Sens. John D. Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, have all been extremely supportive of West Virginia's recycling industry, and as a result, Congress now has an opportunity to strengthen the nation's fly ash regulations.
Let's support jobs, repair roads and preserve the environment here in West Virginia and all across America.
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