This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) prohibiting federal funds from being used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to classify coal ash (also referred to as “fly ash)--a bi-product of burning coal for electricity--as hazardous waste. This amendment was offered to a continuing resolution funding the federal government through September 2011, and cutting $61 billion in federal funding for many government programs.
Classifying coal ash as hazardous waste would have effectively given the EPA the authority to regulate it in order to prevent the pollution of nearby sources of water. Many Republicans opposed giving the EPA this authority.
McKinley urged support for his amendment: “Let me frame the issue. Fly ash is an unavoidable byproduct of electric power generation using coal. It is captured before being emitted into the atmosphere. The fine grain, dust-like particles are then recycled into concrete mixtures for our roads, our bridges, and buildings….It's been widely used in drywall panels used in houses, schools, and offices….Coal ash use and disposal has been studied by the EPA for over 20 years…..The EPA's conclusion was that these wastes do not warrant regulation…How many more reports need to be conducted by the EPA to show that fly ash is nonhazardous? Enough is enough.”
Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) opposed the amendment: “The fact is that coal ash contains dangerous contaminants, such as mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, and we know those can be dangerous to public health. Without further guidance by EPA, this ash will continue to be stored onsite at many large power plants, where it leaches into the groundwater and into nearby streams. EPA has found a number of communities across the country where coal ash has contaminated drinking water sources poisoning people and wildlife.”
The House agreed to this amendment by a vote of 239-183. Voting “yea” were 220 Republicans and 19 Democrats. 165 Democrats and 18 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment prohibiting funds provided by a continuing resolution from being used by the Environmental Protection Agency to classify coal ash as hazardous waste—which would have given the agency the authority to regulate it in order to prevent the pollution of nearby sources of water.