Bills boosting states' environmental oversight pass first hurdle

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The marquee bill on coal ash, called the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, requires the EPA to defer power to the states to regulate the waste.

In 2010, the EPA proposed to regulate the ash two different ways, but critics quickly pounced on the agency, claiming the rule would kill jobs and drive up the cost of business.

"This bill creates a federal-state partnership that is different than environmental laws we have enacted in the past but it will be no less protective of human health and the environment," said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) the subcommittee's chairman, in his prepared remarks.

Last Congress, a similar measure to reduce the EPA's role in coal ash regulation passed the House, though it failed to gather steam in the Senate. This time around, legislators on the panel said they incorporated suggestions from both the previous Senate version and the EPA for the bill.

In his prepared statement, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the committee's chairman, called the bill "a multi-party compromise that has been years in the making."

The subcommittee also approved the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act, which allows the EPA to review its solid waste regulations whenever it sees fit, instead of every three years, and ensures that its financial requirements for hazardous substances will not preempt state requirements.

It also approved bills declaring that federal operations must respect state laws and a measure that strengthens states' roles on Superfund cleanup sites.

The bills will advance to the full committee.