Coal Tattoo

Industry pressuring Obama on coal-ash rules

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There’s an interesting report out today from the Center for Progressive Reform’s CPR Blog, following up on yesterday’s EPA announcement of a delay in issuing a rules proposal on toxic coal-ash handling and disposal.

(See my previous breaking new blog post and a Gazette print story here and here).

It seems that in the months leading up to EPA’s decision to delay its rules proposal, officials from various affected industries met with the White House Office of Management and Budget 10 times to discuss the topic. It’s worth nothing that this list of meetings only runs up through Nov. 17 — we don’t know what meetings took place after that.

As James Goodwin explained:

Based on the meeting records on OIRA’s website, no other specific regulatory issue has attracted this much industry attention. (EPA’s controversial rule on greenhouse gas reporting, in comparison, only generated six meetings between industry representatives and OIRA.) The peak came on Thursday, November 12, when OIRA hosted three different meetings with industry officials to discuss coal ash disposal. Industry reps must have lined up outside the EEOB like teenagers waiting for the opening day showing of New Moon.

The blog pointed out that these meetings all took place before EPA has even published a proposed rule, starting the formal rulemaking process — a process which would be very open for industry folks to have all the input they want:

It is completely inappropriate for OIRA to allow industry to become so involved before the rulemaking process has even officially begun. After all, as described above, the APA provides ample opportunities for these industries to participate in the rulemaking process and to make their views known. Even worse, OIRA is providing these industries with a forum in which they can try to intimidate EPA into adopting a weak regulatory approach for coal ash disposal—one in which coal ash is officially designated as a non-hazardous waste under RCRA and thus subject to only very weak state oversight. Indeed, these industries are using these meetings as opportunities to provide EPA with a preview of the fierce battle it will face if it attempts to take a stronger regulatory approach when the official rulemaking process does finally commence. (For what it’s worth, OIRA has met with environmental groups on this issue only once, though that imbalance isn’t the main point).