Over the past several decades, a variety of environmentally safe uses for coal ash have been developed in construction, building materials and even agriculture. Every day you come into contact with roads, bridges, and buildings made with coal ash as an ingredient.
Coal ash is used for far more than its environmental benefits. For instance, concrete made with coal ash is much stronger and more durable that concrete made with cement alone. In fact, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association estimates that the cost to the nation’s infrastructure would be more than $100 billion over 20 years if coal ash were not available.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – in two reports to Congress and two formal Regulatory Determinations issued over two decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations – concluded that coal ash does not warrant regulation as a “hazardous waste.” EPA’s “Final Regulatory Determination” under the Clinton Administration in 2000 spurred a huge increase in the practice of recycling. With regulatory certainty of a “non-hazardous” determination, recycling rates soared from 29 percent in 2000 to 44 percent in 2008.
In 2009, however, the Obama Administration’s EPA re-opened the coal ash issue and developed proposed regulations that would treat coal ash as “hazardous waste” when disposed. EPA would continue to exempt ash from regulation when it is recycled, but who wants to use a material in their homes that is considered “hazardous” on the property of the person who made it?
The results have been disastrous. Recycling rates have begun to fall – dipping to 41 percent in 2010 – and the EPA rulemaking process continues unresolved while one of America’s greatest environmental success stories dies on the vine.
NMA Says Arizona Land Withdrawal
Not Supported by Science, Hurts Economy
In response to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar withdrawing federal land in northern Arizona from hardrock mining for 20 years, National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn said, “The secretary’s decision to rule out mining on more than one million acres of federal land deprives the United States of energy and minerals critically important to its economy and does so without compelling scientific evidence that is necessary for such a far-reaching measure.
A complete copy of the press release is available at: NMA press release.
Coal Ash Recycling Legislation Will
Preserve Jobs, Reduce Energy Costs, Empower States
Senate Bill 1751 (S. 1751) is one of the greenest pieces of energy legislation introduced in this Congress according to sources in Washington. Senators John Hoeven and Kent Conrad are sponsors of the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2011, legislation that will ensure the safe and effective disposal of coal combustion residuals, a byproduct of coal-fired electricity generation that is recycled as a valuable building material.
Under this legislation, states could set up their own permitting program for the management and disposal of coal ash that is based on existing EPA regulations to protect human health and the environment. States will know where they stand under this bill, since the benchmarks for what constitutes a successful state program will be set in statute.
The Hoeven-Conrad legislation is prompted by the EPA’s proposal to regulate coal ash as hazardous waste. Coal ash is a byproduct that has been safely used for buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure for years under state regulations. The agency’s new rule would add additional costs to recycling companies and power plants, thereby increasing the cost of electricity to consumers.
A complete copy of the press release is available at: Sen. Hoeven press release.
American Bar Association Newsletter Article
Cites Unintended Consequences of EPA Actions
In the January 2012 Waste and Resources Recovery Committee Newsletter of the American Bar Association, authors Steven Moon and John Ward summarize the anti-environmental dilemma the EPA has created for recyclers. In 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency issued its Final Regulatory Determination that concluded coal ash did not warrant regulation as a hazardous waste. That sent a clear signal to producers, marketers and users of coal ash who began to invest more in the infrastructure necessary to support recycling.
In 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency accelerated this effort by creating the Coal Combustion Products Partnership (C2P2), to actively promote recycling as a preferred alternative to disposal. However, recently and unfortunately, according to the article, the EPA has stepped back from its visible support of recycling, and created far reaching uncertainty. Due to this, investments in the infrastructure necessary to support recycling have stalled and recycling rates have already begun to drop.
A complete copy of the story is available at: Waste and Resources Recovery Committee Newsletter.