Hoeven, Conrad Introduce Coal Ash Recycling Legislation

Measure Will Help Preserve Jobs, Protect Local Oversight, Hold Down Energy Costs

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven and Kent Conrad today introduced 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 also 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.  

Hoeven outlined the new legislation on the floor of the U.S. Senate today in Washington, illustrating his comments with photos of Bismarck State University’s National Center of Energy Excellence and a rendering of the new North Dakota Heritage Center expansion, both of which incorporate recycled coal residuals in their construction. 

“North Dakota is a good example of how states can manage the disposal of coal residuals with good environmental stewardship, and at the same time, allow for beneficial uses like building roads, bridges and buildings that are stronger and less expensive,” Hoeven and Conrad said. “Just as importantly, it helps to preserve valuable jobs at a time when the nation very much needs them.” 

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. 

The bill 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.  

“This legislation represents a reasonable new approach to environmental law – a states-first approach,” Hoeven and Conrad said in a joint statement. “It ensures good environmental stewardship, while helping to preserve jobs and ensure that a beneficial product is made available for worthy uses. Just as importantly, it ensures that Congress and the states hold the reins of environmental policy.”