Yesterday 38 organizations sent a letter [1] to Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Upton and Ranking Member Waxman. The National Association of Manufacturers was a signatory to this letter which expresses strong support for H.R. 2273, The Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act or the as it is better known, the Coal Ash legislation.

This legislation would regulate coal ash under subtitle D of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), strengthens state programs and gives them the ability to regulate coal ash. Finally, it provides a federal backstop the gives the EPA authority to step in if a state is not willing or able to meet federal baseline.

This legislation is in response to the Environmental Protection Agencys (EPA) proposed rule to regulate coal ash under subtitle C of RCRA, which makes coal ash a hazardous waste; or, to regulate coal ash under subtitle D as a non-hazardous waste. Both proposals would place additional burdensome regulations that will increase the cost of energy, drive coal ash to landfills rather than recycling and prevent the beneficial use of the product.   

Currently coal ash is recycled or reused in a number of construction materials including cement, asphalt, bricks, shingles and wallboard. This makes coal ash a valuable and useful commodity to the construction sector. However, if EPA regulates coal ash under subtitle C or D, it will morph its use and handling from a commodity that is a valued and an important ingredient to a waste that will be stored in landfills.

To make matters worse, as many as 316,000 jobs could be lost as a result of these new regulations. This should be a success story, and yet the EPA seems to be looking for ways to fill up landfills rather than reuse and recycle valuable materials without giving much, if any thought to putting another 300,000 people out of work!

Chip Yost is vice president for energy and resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers.