Recently, House Republicans passed H.R. 1734, the so called Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act of 2015, a direct attack on public health and the environment. This bill undermines important health protections in EPA’s final coal ash rule from last December by delaying implementation of coal ash disposal restrictions, letting utilities avoid publicly posting contamination data and allowing companies to continue dumping coal ash into leaking surface impounds for as many as eight years after contamination is documented. It enables harmful substances to remain in contact with aquifers, wetlands, and in seismic impact zones with serious implications for cleanup requirements, transparency, and groundwater protection standards.
The unsafe and unregulated disposal of coal ash is a critical risk to our health and our environment. Toxic materials in coal ash seep into our groundwater, our drinking water, and even the air we breathe.
In the thirty five years since Congress passed the Resource Reuse and Recovery Act (RCRA), the EPA has been studying coal ash disposal. Last December’s finalized rule strengthens necessary regulations, reducing the risk of future disasters like the Kingston coal ash slurry spill of 2008. This should not be a political issue. Arsenic, lead and mercury – substances found in coal ash – do not ask how you voted in the last election before causing harm. Limiting restrictions on the vicinity of coal ash impoundments relative to drinking water sources is an idea based in science.
The EPA’s mission is to enhance public health and work with business to find creative ways for the private sector to work with regulators, spurring innovation and job creation while we make our country a little bit better for the next generation. H.R. 1734 would undermine that mission, endangering public health in the process.