GMA government relations update (06/29/11)

This is an update on a couple of the issues GMA will be advocating during the Lobby Day, Sept. 13 and 14, 2011.

Geosynthetics used as separators and interlayers in roadways study

Our request for Congressional funding of a cost-benefit study of using geosynthetics as separators and interlayers in roads continues to gain momentum. We have made great progress in the House and we are now targeting the Senate with information and letters of support for our proposal. We sent GMA members an email on June 22 requesting a letter of support. Attached is a copy of the letter template. If you have not already done so, please put the letter on your company letterhead and send me a PDF of the letter. Our lobbyists will deliver the letters next week. We will continue to advocate for the study during our Lobby Day meetings.

Coal ash waste disposal

Yesterday, GMA had the opportunity to participate in an Edison Electric Institute USWAG (Utilities Solid Waste Activities Group) 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 EPA will classify coal ash as hazardous waste when EPA completes its rule making process. In addition, EPA is moving slowly in the rule making process and both the electric utilities and the beneficial use (recycling) industry want regulatory certainty regarding coal ash disposal. On June 8th we met with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, USWAG and several legislative offices regarding this issue. One of our takeaways from those meetings was it is likely EPA would not rule on coal ash until after the 2012 US elections. As you know, GMA has testified and provided written comments on EPA’s proposed rule. However, the utilities, recycling industry and GMA would like the issue resolve much sooner through legislation.

McKinley Bill

The original “McKinley bill” was introduced as an amendment to HR1 (an appropriations bill) and banned EPA from using federal funds to regulate coal ash as hazardous waste. This bill has been completely re-written with a much 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. Details are below:

  • The projected markup/bill by the House Energy & Commerce Committee of HR 2273 (coal ash legislation) is sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-1st WV).  This bill amended Rep. McKinley’s previous version of the bill HR 1391. On June 22nd the bill passed the Subcommittee on the Environment & Economy and was referred to the full committee for mark-up. The bill is likely to get marked-up the week of July 4th – at the earliest.    
  •  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 wrote a more widely palatable bill related to coal ash classification, management, and beneficial re-use. The previous bill took a very harsh stance which 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 issuing permits to coal ash producers (while notifying EPA that they are doing so). If state specifications cannot be met, EPA would then take control of the site and manage it to their standards. Additionally, the bill would maintain the current definition for coal ash under Subtitle D. 

If a bill can be drafted that enjoys high bipartisan support in the House, it is possible that the Senate would be willing to approve it, particularly if the power/energy industry were successful in mobilizing support across party lines. It is possible the House would vote on the bill prior to the August recess.

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. Our lobbyists are developing talking points for us regarding the bill. We will share those with you prior to Lobby Day.

We would like to see great participation by members in the up-coming Lobby Day. If you have not already done so, please send me a note that you will be attending so our team will be able to set up meetings with your members of Congress.