Hoeven: Bipartisan Bill on Coal Ash Recycling Will Protect Local Oversight, Help Create Jobs and Reduce Energy Costs

Senator, ND Business and Energy Leaders Discuss Safe, Effective Disposal and Recycling of Coal Combustion Residuals

BISMARCK, N.D. – At a news conference today, Senator John Hoeven outlined the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2011, bipartisan legislation he recently introduced to ensure the safe and effective disposal and recycling of coal ash, a byproduct of coal-fired electricity generation. Hoeven and North Dakota business and energy leaders underscored the importance of the legislation for local companies and its benefits to North Dakotans, including job creation and reduced energy costs. 

Hoeven was joined at the news conference by MDU Resources CEO Terry Hildestad; Great River Energy Vice President of Generation Rick Lancaster; Great River Energy Business Development Manager Al Christianson; Basin Electric Senior Vice President Mike Eggl; Headwaters, Inc. Regional Manager Jim Glass; North American Coal Manager of Government and Public Affairs David Straley; and Lignite Energy Council Vice President of Government Affairs Sandi Tabor.  

 The bill preserves coal ash recycling and also establishes federal standards for coal ash disposal. Under the legislation, states could either set up their own permitting program for the management and disposal of coal ash based on existing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations to protect human health and the environment, or the EPA will implement the program. 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 legislation, which would protect local oversight over the disposal and recycling of coal ash, was prompted by an EPA proposal to regulate coal ash as hazardous waste. Coal ash 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, and by some estimates it would eliminate as many as 316,000 jobs over the next 20 years. 

“North Dakota handles coal residuals not only with good environmental stewardship, but also with innovation and common sense. Instead of filling our landfills with coal ash, we’re safely using this byproduct to build stronger and more cost-effective buildings and roads. This bipartisan legislation empowers states and, just as importantly, it helps to preserve and create jobs that our nation so badly needs,” said Hoeven at Bismarck State College’s National Center of Energy Excellence, a building that was constructed using recycled coal residuals. 

The legislation will set up a state permitting program for coal ash under a section of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that would ensure sites have the adequate groundwater monitoring, protective lining, and properly engineered structures needed to protect communities.  

Hoeven introduced the bill Oct. 20 with strong bipartisan support. It is cosponsored by Senators Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.)