The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 1734, because it would undermine the protection of public health and the environment provided by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) December 2014 final rule addressing the risks posed by mismanaged impoundments of coal ash and other coal combustion residuals (CCR). The 2008 failure of a coal ash impoundment in Kingston, Tennessee, and the 2014 coal ash spill into the Dan River in Eden, North Carolina, serve as stark reminders of the need for safe disposal and management of coal ash.
EPA’s rule articulates clear and consistent national standards to protect public health and the environment, prevent contamination of drinking water, and minimize the risk of catastrophic failure at coal ash surface impoundments. H.R. 1734 would, however, substantially weaken these protections. For example, the bill would eliminate restrictions on how close coal ash impoundments can be located to drinking water sources. It also would undermine EPA’s requirement that unlined impoundments must close or be retrofitted with protective liners if they are leaking and contaminating drinking water. Further, the bill would delay requirements in EPA’s final CCR rule, including structural integrity and closure requirements, for which tailored extensions are already available through EPA’s rule and through approved Solid Waste Management Plans.
Perhaps the Senate will improve this bad bill. If not, President Obama has promised a veto. Is Congress passing doomed bills simply to force the President to use his veto? It sure looks that way.