House again rejects Dem amendments to EPA bill

"Even though EPA has confirmed on multiple occasions that coal ash does not trigger its own toxicity tests to be labeled as hazardous, regulation was proposed by the EPA in June 2010 that would do just that," Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said. "The results of EPA's regulations would have been devastating on the effects of jobs, higher utility rates at home, and cripple a very successful emerging by-products industry."

Shimkus stressed repeatedly that the bill does not represent an attempt to avoid taking responsibility for the environment. He said it would set federal standards for coal ash for the first time, allow states to meet them, and allow the EPA to step in where states fail.

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But Democrats rejected these arguments and said the bill would simply maintain the status quo, under which states can seek to regulate coal ash, or not, as they see fit.

"It replaces those proposals with an ineffective program that won't ensure the safe disposal of coal ash," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said of the bill. He said the EPA rule would set a minimum standard for coal ash, and said this sort of approach has "worked well because it prevents a race to the bottom by the states."

By voice vote, one Republican amendment to the bill was accepted. That amendment, from Shimkus, adds details to certification requirements that states would have to provide to EPA, and clarifies that states can get technical assistance from the EPA.

But the House rejected five other amendments just before moving to final passage of the bill. Spiked amendments were from:

Waxman, to authorize the EPA to require state programs to meet a legal standard of protection to ensure human health and the environment are protected from coal ash. Rejected 171-236.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), to establish a five-year time frame for bringing existing coal ash impoundment systems into compliance with design improvements, and set up groundwater monitoring systems. Rejected 173-231.

Markey, to require states to notify the public and the EPA and offer the opportunity to comment before a state establishes a program to regulate coal ash. Rejected 185-223.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), to allow the EPA to enforce state requirements when coal ash standards are not met and states do not act to meet the standards. Rejected 164-241.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), to require EPA to submit a report to Congress on the long-term effects of state coal ash permit programs on human health and the environment. Rejected 174-235.