In the wake of the loss of nearly 6,000 coal mining jobs lost in the past two years, and the shut down of over 200 coal-fired power plants, new federal legislation was passed last week in a bid to give some much needed support to coal industries like ours in the commonwealth.
H.R. 2218, known as the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, passed on July 25, ensures that one of the most valuable left-overs of coal combustion, “coal ash,” will be allowed to be recycled into even more valuable products. The bill allows the states to develop permitting programs for the industry as long as the permits meet the environmental standards stipulated in the law.
As we reported in our “2013 Bluegrass Energy Report: The EPA’s Economic Impact on Kentucky,” the EPA previously classified all valuable coal ash as toxic materials, though even according to the EPA’s own findings, these byproducts “rarely reach the Resource and Conservation Recovery Act hazardous waste characteristic levels.” The EPA’s stance on coal ash cost Kentuckians at least $1.5 billion per year due to the EPA’s intervention into coal ash product markets like bowling balls and concrete mix.
This bill is another small victory in the war on coal. One of the co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Andy Barr, R-KY, had this to say following the successful passage of the bill:
“H.R. 2218 will bring much-needed regulatory certainty to job creators by blocking the EPA from mindlessly classifying coal ash as hazardous waste, which would put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk and drive up electricity and construction costs. Kentucky’s job-creating signature industries benefit from the many uses of coal ash. It keeps electricity costs low for Kentucky families, provides low-cost durable constriction materials, and reduces the amount of waste going into surface impoundments and landfills.”