What’s Happening in Congress


In December 2014 EPA finalized its long-awaited coal ash rule, which provides the first federal minimum standards for the disposal and storage of coal ash. Despite the overall weakness of these standards, some Senators are moving a bill that would undermine the rule. This bill — S. 2446 — threatens our health, our safety, and our environment while removing or delaying critical requirements for owners of coal-fired power plants to safely handle, store, and dispose of toxic coal ash. Senators may also try to pass the same content in the form of an amendment to a larger bill. Either way, it protects the polluters instead of public health!

Your Senators need to hear from you right now. Click here to sign our petition urging them to oppose S. 2446.

In its current form, S. 2446 would:

  • ELIMINATE the EPA rule’s requirement to immediately clean up all toxic releases and notify the public;
  • ELIMINATE the EPA rule’s national standard for drinking water protection and cleanup of contaminated sites;
  • ELIMINATE the rule’s nationwide protective standards and allow each state to set different standards for disposal;
  • ELIMINATE the EPA rule’s requirement to close existing coal ash lagoons that are sited in dangerous and unstable areas, even after an owner/operator fails to make the required demonstration of safety;
  • ELIMINATE the EPA rule’s environmental and health protections for large coal ash fill projects;
  • ELIMINATE the EPA rule’s prohibition against siting coal ash dumps in floodplains;
  • ELIMINATE all protective standards for coal ash waste piles nationwide;
  • SIGNIFICANTLY DELAY, for up to six years, the requirement to close leaking and structurally unsound impoundments;
  • SIGNIFICANTLY DELAY the application of safety, design, and operating standards for new lagoons and landfills;
  • SIGNIFICANTLY DELAY the EPA rule’s guarantee of public access to information regarding water contamination and assessments of dangerous dams;
  • SIGNIFICANTLY DELAY critical requirements, such as inspections, control of fugitive dust, groundwater monitoring and cleanup requirements for all new coal ash lagoons and landfills;
  • SIGNIFICANTLY WEAKEN AND DELAY the ability of citizens to enforce safety requirements;
  • PROHIBIT effective federal oversight of state coal ash programs;
  • PROHIBIT EPA enforcement of state program requirements unless invited by a state.
  • PROHIBIT EPA from requiring financial assurance under RCRA to ensure utility companies are able to pay for the cleanup of spills and contaminated drinking water. The financial assurance provision in the bill does not cover spills or releases of hazardous substances.

But we can protect EPA’s coal ash rule. Tell your senators to oppose any attempt to undermine or delay EPA’s rule. You can also join our efforts to defend EPA’s current rule and fight for a strong coal plant water pollution standard!

Past Attempts to Undermine EPA’s Authority

Since EPA first proposed its rule to regulate coal ash in 2010, a determined group of pro-pollution lawmakers have been trying to find legislative ways to undermine EPA’s authority.

In the spring of 2012 some Representatives and Senators fought tooth and nail to have an anti-EPA coal ash bill passed as part of the Transportation Bill (H.R. 4348, “Surface Transportation Extension Act, Part II”). An amendment, introduced by Rep. McKinley, was placed in the Transportation Bill and would have stripped EPA of the ability to create and enforce federal standards for disposal of coal ash. In the place of EPA authority, the McKinley amendment would have offered unenforceable guidelines even weaker than those included in EPA’s current coal ash rule. Clearly, undermining EPA’s authority remains a legislative priority for Rep. McKinley (see above).

In June 2013, Rep. McKinley proposed H.R. 2218, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013. This proposed legislation mirrored prior and current attempts by McKinley, seeking to prevent the EPA from setting protective and federally enforceable standards for the disposal of coal ash.

Public outcry to keep this anti-environment rider from the Transportation Bill was loud and the Transportation Bill finally passed without the coal ash amendment attached.

Earthjustice has a chart, which you can also download here, which shows just how deceptive many of these bills were.