Coal Tattoo

White House blasts Rep. McKinley’s coal ash bill

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Earlier today, the Obama White House signaled its strong opposition to legislation from Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. (see here, here and here), to block any tough U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation of the handling and disposal of toxic coal ash.

As reported by The Hill, the White House said:

The Administration opposes H.R. 2273, as reported by Committee, which is insufficient to address the risks associated with coal ash disposal and management, and undermines the Federal government’s ability to ensure that requirements for management and disposal of coal combustion residuals are protective of human health and the environment.

The 2008 failure of a coal ash impoundment in Kingston, Tennessee, which spilled more than five million cubic yards of coal ash and will require approximately $1.2 billion for clean-up, is a stark reminder of the need for safe disposal and management of coal ash to protect public health and the environment. The Administration has assessed structural stability at active coal ash impoundments and has identified 49 units in 12 states as having a “high hazard potential” rating should they fail.

The Administration supports the development, implementation, and enforcement of appropriate standards for facilities managing coal ash, while encouraging the beneficial use of this economically important material. Any approach to managing coal ash would need to include: (1) clear requirements that address the risks associated with the coal ash disposal and management; (2) consideration of the best science and data available; (3) adequate evaluation of structural integrity; (4) protective solutions for existing as well as new facilities; and (5) appropriate public information and comment.

Because H.R. 2273 is deficient in these areas and would replace existing authorities with inadequate and inappropriate minimum requirements, the Administration opposes the bill.

Of course, that statement — strictly speaking — doesn’t threaten to veto the bill, and EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has done well enough on her own delaying any meaningful federal regulation of toxic coal ash (see here and here (subscription required)).