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house Bill H.R. 1734

Should States Decide How to Handle Their Coal Ash?

Argument in favor

This bill helps states have some autonomy from the EPA when dealing with the byproducts of their coal plants. That makes sense: it’s their mess, they should decide how to deal with it. This is some Adulthood 101.

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04/24/2015
States have an obligation to deal with their own problems. If they refuse or simply fail to acknowledge or fix said problems, it is then and only then that the federal government has the right to intervene. States must learn to solve their own problems or risk losing what little autonomy they have left.
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ScottWalker's Opinion
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08/25/2015
"Every state has an equivalent of the EPA. Every state that has it, not that they’re all perfect, but they’re much more effective, much more efficient and certainly much more accountable at the state and local level than they are in Washington.” Read more at http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/06/02/3664995/walker-climate-epa/
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Loraki's Opinion
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10/14/2016
This passed the House, and I hope it passes the Senate (but Obama will probably veto it). It returns some autonomy to coal producing states and provides for the safe management and disposal of coal ash in a manner that preserves jobs and encourages recycling. The recycling and beneficial use of coal ash materials keeps utility costs low, provides for low-cost durable construction materials like concrete and roofing materials, and reduces waste. Estimates project this legislation will protect approximately 316,000 jobs.
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Argument opposed

States should be able to deal with their coal ash properly, but so far they haven’t. That’s part of why the Federal government exists: to step in when states can’t get the job done. This bill would give them even more chances to screw up.

BernieSanders's Opinion
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08/25/2015
"Much more must be done to avoid a planetary crisis, but reducing emissions from dirty coal-fired power plants is a good step. Shutting down old, dirty power plants and replacing them with solar, wind and other renewable and sustainable sources of energy will also create hundreds of thousands of jobs and save consumers billions of dollars.” [sanders.senate.gov]
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Samantha's Opinion
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04/24/2015
It's OUR Earth. We cannot allow one state to screw it up for all of us.
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mell42's Opinion
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04/24/2015
In a perfect world this may be fine, but one state's poor planning could have grave consequences for its neighbors. Especially on groundwater, which doesn't follow map borders.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Environment and Public Works
  • The house Passed July 22nd, 2015
    Roll Call Vote 258 Yea / 166 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Energy and Commerce
      Environment and Climate Change
    IntroducedApril 13th, 2015

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What is House Bill H.R. 1734?

This bill aims to increase state autonomy, by giving them the power choose their own programs for disposing of coal ash — the byproduct of burning coal for electricity.

If the bill is passed, state governors would have six months to decide if they’re going to set up a coal ash program. If they do, they then have 24 months to get their program certified. Applications for certification would have to include:

  • A list of the state agencies that would be involved in running the program;
  • A plan for how the program is going to meet current compliance, enforcement, and public participation regulations;
  • A plan for coal ash spills;
  • And a plan for working with other states.

Though much of the bill links these coal ash programs with the federal laws to which they have to comply, it does allow states to come up with their own alternatives to federal regulations. Specifically, it allows states to come up with their own standards on groundwater protection, when it’s necessary to take action on leaks, and the operation of unlined storage facilities.

The bill also comes with standards on how to deal with inactive storage sites.

Impact

People that live near coal ash storage sites, U.S. air and water quality, people and organizations that use groundwater, state access to electricity, state governments, energy companies, and the coal industry.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1734

$2.00 Million
A CBO cost estimate found that this bill would cost taxpayers $2 million over the 2016-2020 period — assuming that funds are available.

More Information

In Depth: This bill has bipartisan support, though most of its backers are Republicans. Of these, a good chunk are from Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Sponsoring Rep. David McKinley’s West Virginia — coal country. But Rep. Peter King (R-NY), whose district is in southern Long Island — not coal country — is also a sponsor, so support for the bill can’t totally be reduced to provincial politics.

Of Note: What are coal combustion residuals? Basically what they sound like: the stuff that’s left over after coal is burned at a power plant (hence their other, more wieldy name, coal ash). Power plants make a whole lot of this stuff. 470 plants tracked by the EPA in 2012 produced some 110 million tons of it. Bad stuff can happen when coal ash gets out of storage facilities. In 2008, a coal ash spill occurred at a Tennessee facility, creating a “tidal wave of water and ash” that destroyed homes, caused a gas leak and went on to clog up rivers and kill fish. 

Since then, the EPA has been working with power plants to ensure that their coal ash is stored safely and securely, issuing a final ruling on storage regulations in 2014. Sponsoring Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) isn’t too happy about it. In his release for this bill, he claims that the EPA’s regulations, which give a whole mess of technical requirements on how this ash has to be stored, will put more than 300,000 jobs at risk. His bill, he explains, gives states the opportunity to deal with coal ash safely and on their own terms.


Media:

Summary by James Helmsworth

(Photo Credit: Flickr user USFWS/Southeast

AKA

Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act of 2015

Official Title

To amend subtitle D of the Solid Waste Disposal Act to encourage recovery and beneficial use of coal combustion residuals and establish requirements for the proper management and disposal of coal combustion residuals that are protective of human health and the environment.

    "Every state has an equivalent of the EPA. Every state that has it, not that they’re all perfect, but they’re much more effective, much more efficient and certainly much more accountable at the state and local level than they are in Washington.” Read more at http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/06/02/3664995/walker-climate-epa/
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    "Much more must be done to avoid a planetary crisis, but reducing emissions from dirty coal-fired power plants is a good step. Shutting down old, dirty power plants and replacing them with solar, wind and other renewable and sustainable sources of energy will also create hundreds of thousands of jobs and save consumers billions of dollars.” [sanders.senate.gov]
    Like (110)
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    It's OUR Earth. We cannot allow one state to screw it up for all of us.
    Like (34)
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    In a perfect world this may be fine, but one state's poor planning could have grave consequences for its neighbors. Especially on groundwater, which doesn't follow map borders.
    Like (30)
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    "Because it would undercut important national protections provided by EPA’s 2014 CCR [Coal Combustion Residuals] management and disposal rule, the Administration strongly opposes H.R. 1734. If the President were presented with H.R. 1734 as drafted, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.” [earthjustice.org]
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    "We know those carbon dioxide levels are increasing the acidity of our oceans, disrupting already-fragile marine ecosystems. And we know that power plants are responsible for about 40% of America's carbon pollution. Add all that up, and we know enough to know that reducing carbon pollution from power plant emissions will make a real difference in the fight against climate change." [warren.senate.gov]
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    History shows us that, given an opening to get around public health in pursuit of money... That's exactly what will happen. States are not islands. What they do affects all their neighbors. All should be held to the same standards.
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    States have an obligation to deal with their own problems. If they refuse or simply fail to acknowledge or fix said problems, it is then and only then that the federal government has the right to intervene. States must learn to solve their own problems or risk losing what little autonomy they have left.
    Like (7)
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    "EPA has gone far beyond its statutory authority . . . The Obama EPA seems intent on pushing its authority beyond legal limits." Read more at http://www.bna.com/jeb-bush-takes-n17179934073/
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    This passed the House, and I hope it passes the Senate (but Obama will probably veto it). It returns some autonomy to coal producing states and provides for the safe management and disposal of coal ash in a manner that preserves jobs and encourages recycling. The recycling and beneficial use of coal ash materials keeps utility costs low, provides for low-cost durable construction materials like concrete and roofing materials, and reduces waste. Estimates project this legislation will protect approximately 316,000 jobs.
    Like (6)
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    The unelected EPA has regulated enough. The state's have the tools they need to get the job done and the market for transporting and disposing of coal ash will work itself out. If someone isn't following the rules already in place- fine them and MOVE ON. That's all the EPA is good for.
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    It's easier to convince a single state to pollute it's backyard than the whole country. This is yet another bill designed to chip away at the EPA's regulatory power.
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    The states can handle their own coal issues, the federal gov needs to deal with larger issues, such as national security, borders and good relations with other countries
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    ".@POTUS’s clean power plan is a great step fwd, & I’d expand it to cover large emission sources beyond power plants"[twitter.com]
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    Carrot and a stick.
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    In no way should individual states affect the entire country. If just one state mishandled the ash, it could impact every state and everyone.
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    Don't be dumb. We can't trust states to all walk a safe line without oversight.
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    The disposal of coal ash is a national problem. Allowing individual States to decide what to do with it may allow one state to dump their ash in another, less regulated, state.
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    State's do a superior job caring for their own business! Government interference is always a proven disaster!
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    The feds need to stay limited to foreign affairs and border security. Two things the current administration knows nothing about.
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