House panel passes GOP coal ash bill

A subpanel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a Republican-backed bill aimed at adding certainty to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) coal ash disposal rule.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), passed 16 to 5 Wednesday, with three Democrats joining all the Republicans to vote for it.


McKinley’s bill answers a number of concerns Republicans and utilities had with the EPA’s December rule, which set the first national standards for storage and disposal of coal ash waste at power plants and in landfills.

The House bill improves enforcement mechanisms by requiring states to set up permit systems for coal ash sites, while removing some of the requirements of the EPA rule, like public disclosure of the status of disposal ponds and pits.

Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusConservative Club for Growth backs Texas House Republican's primary challenger Republicans eye legislation to rival Democrats' sweeping climate plan Overnight Energy: House passes sweeping bill on 'forever chemicals' | Green groups question Pentagon about burning of toxic chemicals | Steyer plan would open US to climate refugees MORE (R-Ill.), the chairman of the environment subcommittee, said the bill addresses industry concerns while preserving the important protections of the EPA rule.

“The bill requires every state have a permit program and every permit program will contain

minimum requirements based on EPA’s final rule,” Shimkus said before the vote.

“This is a good bill. EPA developed technical requirements for coal ash that are protective of

human health and the environment,” he said. “This bill utilizes those requirements and makes them part of enforceable permits.”

But Democrats argued that the bill is unnecessary, and would push back deadlines while weakening the rule.

Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoOvernight Energy: Critics question data behind new Trump water rule | Groups seek more time to comment on Trump environmental rollback | EPA under scrutiny over backlog of toxic waste cleanups Democrats demand plan as EPA hits largest backlog of toxic waste cleanups in 15 years Overnight Energy: Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel | GOP lawmakers push back on bill to make greener refrigerators, air conditioners | Green groups sue Trump over California fracking plans MORE (D-N.Y.), the subcommittee’s top Democrat, urged his colleagues to wait to see how the EPA’s rule is enforced.

“Ultimately, the only real test of whether this rule takes the correct approach or not is by implementing it,” he said.

“The bill before us claims to mimic the protections by the EPA’s final rule. But that claim is in serious doubt,” Tonko continued. “The claims made about the rule that it may lead to dual enforcement or excessive lawsuits may prove to be true or prove to be not true.”

The subcommittee voted down a pair of Democratic amendments aimed at strengthening the bill’s requirements for utilities.

Mathy Stanislaus, the EPA’s assistant administrator for solid waste, testified before the panel Tuesday. He defended the agency’s rule, though he declined to take a position on the legislation.