Hoeven, Manchin Make Case for Their Coal Ash Recycling Legislation Before Environment and Public Works Committee

Measure Will Provide Certainty, Empower Local Oversight, Ensure Good Environmental Stewardship

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) this week made the case before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee for their bipartisan legislation that will create a states-first approach to regulating coal ash. The measure provides both certainty for the safe and efficient recycling of coal ash and, for the first time, an enforceable state permit program for the disposal of coal ash. This legislation, builds on the senators’ past efforts to find a bicameral, bipartisan solution for the recycling and disposal of coal ash.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final coal ash rule, announced in December of 2014, correctly regulates coal ash as a non-hazardous material, but the regulation does not create an effective enforcement mechanism for the disposal of coal ash as it relies on citizen-suit litigation to enforce coal ash disposal standards.

“We made a strong case for our bill before the committee, showing how states can safely and efficiently manage the disposal of coal residuals,” Hoeven said. “The EPA’s final rule relies on citizen lawsuits to regulate coal ash and enforces the requirements for recycling and storing, which is an inefficient and haphazard approach. Instead, our bill ensures that the EPA’s coal ash disposal standards are enforced with proper oversight from the states through a permit program, providing greater certainty for the safe recycling of coal ash and better environmental stewardship for everyone. Recycled coal ash was used to build the North Dakota Heritage Center and the National Energy Center of Excellence on the campus of Bismarck State College.”

“The overregulation of coal ash by the EPA would threaten vital industries and unnecessarily cost West Virginia and the nation more jobs," Senator Manchin said. “I am pleased the Environment and Public Works Committee is debating our bipartisan measure that will prevent the EPA from overregulating coal ash and give states the ability to take the lead on setting up their own permitting programs to make sure coal ash is safely recycled and reused by existing EPA health and environment regulations. This commonsense approach will protect jobs and our economy, while giving families and businesses the certainty they need.”

The Hoeven-Manchin legislation:

  • Continues to authorize states to create permit programs to enforce coal ash disposal standards, while it responds to EPA feedback on earlier legislation by requiring states to set up their permit program through a traditional EPA application process and giving EPA final approval of a state’s permit program prior to implementation.
  • Among many coal ash disposal standards, it ensures state permit programs require timely and effective groundwater monitoring of coal ash disposal sites, and also requires protective lining and properly engineered disposal structures needed to protect communities and the environment.
  • States that choose not to create a permit program or that do not have an approved application from EPA will be regulated directly by EPA. 
  • The Hoeven-Manchin legislation provides state regulators the flexibility they need for implementing the groundwater monitoring and corrective action standards, similar to what is provided under existing Municipal Solid Waste regulations.