The article on congressional efforts to establish "House Bills Would Undermine EPA" regulatory standards for coal ash disposal is reckless and misleading (C&EN, Oct. 24, page 8).
The bill (H.R. 2273) was not a “Republican-sponsored” draft “aimed at delaying or blocking the Environmental Protection Agency’s pollution rules.” The bill was bipartisan, attracting 37 votes by Democrats, and actually would result in enforceable coal ash disposal regulations being enacted years earlier than the current EPA schedule could accomplish. Furthermore, the proposed regulations being considered by EPA are not “more stringent” than the regulations established by the bill. They contain the same landfill engineering standards. The only difference is that EPA wants direct enforcement authority, and the only way the agency can get it is through an unwarranted “hazardous waste” designation that is opposed by everyone other than anticoal environmental activists and companies that compete with recycled coal ash.
This article completely ignores one of the most important reasons for Congress’ acting to create enforceable coal ash disposal regulations led by the states: Coal ash recycling is already being harmed by an EPA rule making process that has dragged on for three years and has no end in sight. Coal ash disposal problems can and should be solved without going to the extreme of designating coal ash a hazardous waste.
The best solution for coal ash disposal problems is to quit throwing coal ash away. Millions of tons of coal ash is safely recycled every year into construction materials such as concrete and wallboard. That environmentally beneficial practice is threatened by environmental groups and newspaper stories irresponsibly labeling coal ash as “toxic” and by EPA dragging its heels in finishing its regulations. In truth, coal ash is no more toxic than the manufactured materials it replaces. Citizens for Recycling First can help you learn more at www.recyclingfirst.org.
By John N. Ward