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EPA coal ash regulation too harsh for economy

April 30, 2012
The Mining Journal

U.S. Rep. David McKinley - and other thoughtful Americans - certainly had reason to celebrate last week when the House of Representatives approved his amendment on coal ash regulations. But the fact McKinley, R-W.Va., has had to be doubly persistent in pushing for the legislation is troubling.

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced harsh new limits on the ash produced when coal is burned, as it is in many power plants. While some regulations are needed, the EPA's plan goes far beyond what is needed to safeguard the public's health.

As many as 316,000 jobs will be eliminated if the EPA is allowed to proceed. Worse in a way is the impact on taxpayers. Coal ash is a key ingredient in some construction materials and has been used safely for decades. If enforced, the new federal limits could increase the cost of road and bridge building by $110 billion during the next 20 years, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders' Association.

Last October, McKinley gained House approval of a bill to curb the EPA and substitute realistic new rules for coal ash. Representatives approved the measure by a vote of 267-144, with 37 Democrats joining Republicans in supporting it.

There, the initiative died, in effect. Democrat leaders in the U.S. Senate, more concerned with supporting their president than helping their constituents, refused to consider the House bill.

That forced McKinley to try again. Refusing to settle for the political credit that would have accrued to him from House passage of his bill, the Mountain State lawmaker decided it was vital to stop the EPA's move against coal ash. So he introduced an amendment to the Surface Transportation Extension Act. The amendment includes much of the language of his original bill.

Last week the House, in a convincing voice vote, approved McKinley's amendment. Now, the Senate will have no choice but to consider it because it is part of the critical transportation bill.

McKinley and the House majority who understand the importance of blocking the EPA on coal ash should not have had to go to such an extreme. Again, however, Democrats who control the Senate have made it clear they will block any legislation opposed by the president.

Until voters in their states throw some of those Democrats out of office, such obstruction of the will of the people will not end.



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