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GMA government relations update

GMA News | August 1, 2011 | By:

Here is an update on issues GMA will be advocating during the Sept. 13–14 Lobby Day in D.C.

Geosynthetic materials as separators and interlayers in roadways study

GMA’s request for congressional funding of a cost-benefit study of geosynthetics as separators and interlayers in roads continues to gain momentum.

We are currently pursuing a dual track for the implementation of the Separation Study through both the transportation reauthorization bill and through a personal request from a congressional office. We have made great progress advocating the study in the U.S. House and Senate through meetings with transportation leadership and their staff members.

To date, we have secured more than 25 letters of support from GMA members directed to House and Senate Transportation leadership in support of GMA’s request. We will continue to advocate for the study during our Lobby Day meetings in September.

Coal ash waste disposal

On June 8, we had meetings with:

One of our takeaways from those meetings was the probability that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not rule on coal ash until after the 2012 U.S. elections.

GMA has testified and provided written comments on the EPA’s proposals. However, the utilities, recycling industry, and GMA would like the issue resolved much sooner through legislation.

On June 28 and July 18, GMA had the opportunity to participate in an Edison Electric Institute/USWAG conference call on the topic of recent action in the House of Representatives on coal ash legislation known as the McKinley bill.

The push for a legislative solution to the coal ash waste issue has been motivated by concerns that the EPA will classify coal ash as hazardous waste when it completes the rulemaking process. In addition, the EPA is moving slowly in the rulemaking process and both the electric utilities and the beneficial-use (recycling) industry want regulatory certainty regarding coal ash disposal.

McKinley bill

The original McKinley bill was introduced as an amendment to HR1 (an appropriations bill) and it banned the EPA from using federal funds to regulate coal ash as hazardous waste.

This bill has been completely rewritten with a more thoughtful approach that has a good chance to receive sufficient bipartisan support to pass the House and, potentially, the Senate (although that hurdle is much higher). The new bill would regulate coal ash as solid (non-hazardous) waste, allow for state permitting and control and, if passed, provide the utilities more regulatory certainty.

Here are the details:

  • The bill that came out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee of HR 2273 (coal ash legislation) is sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.V.). This bill amended Rep. McKinley’s previous version of the bill HR 1391.
  • A quick description of the purpose of HR 2273: to amend Subtitle D of the Solid Waste Disposal Act to facilitate recovery and beneficial use, and provide for the proper management and disposal, of materials generated by the combustion of coal and other fossil fuels. With HR 2273, House Republicans attempted to write a more widely palatable bill related to coal ash classification, management, and beneficial re-use. The previous bill took a harsh stance that simply exempted coal ash from a hazardous classification, but did not offer alternatives or solutions for how to manage coal ash under such a classification.
  • HR 2273 would allow states to manage coal ash sites through permits to coal ash producers (while notifying the EPA that they are doing so). If state specifications are not met, then the EPA would take control and manage the site to its standards. This bill would maintain the current definition for coal ash under Subtitle D, non-hazardous.

If this bill gets bipartisan support in the House (as it did in the House Energy & Commerce Committee), it is possible that the Senate would be willing to approve it, particularly if the power/energy industry is successful in mobilizing support across party lines.

The bill is generally consistent with GMA’s position on the coal ash issue. We will be prepared to support it during our Lobby Day meetings in September in the House, if need be, and especially in the Senate where we have strong relationships.

Andrew Aho is the Managing Director of Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA).

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