This opinion piece was written for Earthjustice and is reprinted here with permission.
Here we go again.
Some of our elected leaders are once more maneuvering to block much-needed health protections against coal ash. Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) has sponsored a bill that would broadly remove federal authority for any regulation of coal ash ever. This bill, if enacted, also would conveniently protect his business interests. In April, Politico exposed Rep. McKinley’s business interest in ensuring that coal ash is not regulated. Rep. McKinley owns the largest engineering firm in West Virginia and his company uses coal ash in concrete, as fill for roads and other uses.
Rep. McKinley also represents a district that has the largest coal ash pond in the nation, and his bill goes against what he promised West Virginian Curt Havens, veteran and constituent. Havens was at the Energy and Commerce hearing in April, when Rep. McKinley said, about prior coal ash threats, "I want to make sure that never happens again to another family in America." (Those comments start at minute marker 2:26:26.) Again, business interests are coming before the interest of protecting public health.
During the House budget negotiations February frenzy, Rep. McKinley sponsored amendment 217that would have prohibited the EPA from using any of their funds to move forward with the health protective Subtitle C regulation. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) introduced amendment 10, trying to achieve the same thing. It’s no surprise that both congressmen are heavily supported by the energy sector.
During his 2010 campaign Rep. McKinley received $43,300 from energy companies, and $22,751 of that came from mining interests, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Rep. McKinley’s current effort to stop the regulation of this potent waste, H.R. 1391, would “amend the Solid Waste Disposal Act to exempt fly ash waste, bottom ash waste, slag waste and flue gas emission control waste generated primarily from the combustion of coal or other fossil fuels from regulation as hazardous waste under such Act.”
H.R. 1391 was scheduled to be marked up in the Environment and Economy subcommittee of Energy and Commerce this morning. The markup had to be rescheduled for next Tuesday, June 21 at 4 p.m. due to a drafting error. The bill, as written, couldn’t have been much worse and it’s doubtful there will be any improvements as they fix the drafting error.
Rep. McKinley and the bill supporters will continue to put public health at risk. Further, they will undermine the public coal ash rulemaking currently underway that generated a record-breaking 450,000 comments. This is a tragic example of how some elected officials bow to dirty polluters rather than heeding the concerns of their constituents.