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Cramer Announces House Passage of Coal Ash Bill

Jul 25, 2013
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Kevin Cramer announced the House of Representatives passed a bill he cosponsored to give states authority over coal ash use and recycling. The Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013 creates a state-based program to replace the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan to regulate the beneficial byproduct as a hazardous waste. Coal ash is increasingly being used in North Dakota and nationally as a key ingredient in construction materials including cement, concrete, and wallboard, with more new uses continually being discovered.

"The administration has made clear their priority is to shut down coal-fired power plants, and this includes slamming the door on coal ash by labeling it as a hazardous waste," said Cramer. "This is a proactive measure to prevent the President from scrapping all the progress made by manufacturers and scientists in finding new uses for coal ash in durable construction and household materials. Our utility companies can keep consumer electricity rates lower by taking this product to market where it has been used for projects including the National Center of Energy Excellence at Bismarck State College, wind tower footings, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn, and our roads and highways. Before the EPA’s groundless initiation of the most current Coal Ash Hazardous Waste analysis, major inroads were achieved in coal ash recycling. Unfortunately, due to regulatory uncertainty, this improvement has stalled. I call upon the Senate and the President to take up today’s bill, in order to keep more coal ash from our landfills."

The bill is in reaction to a 2010 EPA proposal to deem coal ash a hazardous waste. The result of the EPA’s proposal would include landfills full of coal ash, weaker construction and home products, and increased electricity rates. The legislation cosponsored by Congressman Cramer and passed in the House allows for continuing use of coal ash through a state-based regulatory program, which allows for stronger products, and lower electricity rates as companies go to market with this useful byproduct.

North Dakota electric utilities generate more than 3.3 million tons of coal ash each year, with Coal Creek Station in Underwood generating the third largest amount of any U.S. facility. Great River Energy recycles 100% of its coal ash at Stanton Station, and operates an 85,000 ton coal ash storage dome at Coal Creek, which recylces 450,000 out of 500,000 tons of coal ash. Other products enhanced by North Dakota coal ash include ceramic tiles, cultured stone, carpet, paint, insulation for stoves and refrigerators, ceiling and flooring tiles, lumber, bricks and masonry, and shingles and roofing materials.

Both the North Dakota Health Department and the Public Service Commission currently collaborate in the waste permitting program for coal ash. An EPA designation of the byproduct as a hazardous waste would require the construction of entirely separate hazardous waste disposal sites, which do not currently exist in the state.

The bill passed today builds on the progress made in the last Congress, when similar bills were passed in the U.S. House, and introduced by Senator John Hoeven in the U.S. Senate.

Congressman Cramer served as a North Dakota Public Service Commissioner from 2003, where he carried the coal portfolio, until his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. The Public Service Commission included within its jurisdiction the regulation of electricity rates. Cramer is a member of the House Natural Resources and Science, Space and Technology Committees.