House votes to halt strict coal ash rules, but fight will continue in Senate
The House of Representatives approved an amendment to a federal spending bill over the weekend that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the toxic ash from coal-fired power plants as hazardous waste.
But advocates of strict federal oversight of coal ash regard the vote as a victory of sorts because they believe they got enough support to keep the fight alive in the Senate.
The final vote to pass the anti-regulatory amendment offered by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) (in photo) was 239 to 183. But a grassroots lobbying effort organized by the environmental advocacy group Earthjustice helped bring 19 Republicans to the pro-regulatory side -- about three times as many as supported any other environmental rider to the House spending bill.
McKinley's amendment would prevent the EPA from using funds to regulate coal ash as hazardous waste under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The EPA released two proposed options last year for regulating coal ash -- the hazardous waste option, which is widely opposed by electric utilities, and an option that would treat the coal ash as ordinary waste under RCRA and provide much less stringent oversight.
The Republicans who crossed party lines to cast a "no" vote in support of treating coal ash like hazardous waste were Reps. Timothy Johnson of Illinois; Bill Cassidy of Louisiana; Erik Paulsen of Minnesota; Jeffrey Fortenberry of Nebraska; Charles Bass of New Hampshire; Leonard Lance, Frank LoBiondo and Christopher Smith of New Jersey; Nan Hayworth of New York; Steven LaTourette and Michael Turner of Ohio; Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania; Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee; J. Randy Forbes, Scott Rigell, Rob Wittman and Frank Wolf of Virginia; and Dave Reichert of Washington.
But there were also 19 Democrats who crossed party lines to support the amendment targeting EPA's coal ash regulation. They were Mike Ross of Arkansas; Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa of California; John Barrow of Georgia; Jerry Costello of Illinois; Andre Carson and Joe Donnelly of Indiana; Leonard Boswell of Iowa; Ben Chandler of Kentucky; Collin Peterson and Timothy Walz of Minnesota; William Owens of New York; Dan Boren of Oklahoma; Mark Critz and Tim Holden of Pennsylvania; Henry Cuellar of Texas; Jim Matheson of Utah; Nick Rahall of West Virginia; and Ronald Kind of Wisconsin.
There were 11 lawmakers who didn't vote on the amendment, nine of them Democrats and two Republicans.
The McKinley amendment was part of a broader GOP effort seeking to block stricter environmental regulations. Other amendments that passed included:
* A separate proposal by Rep. McKinley of West Virginia taking away EPA's ability to block Clean Water Act permits for mountaintop removal mining;
* A proposal by Rep. Morgan Griffith's (R-Va.) blocking funds for EPA's effort to impose stricter water quality protections for Appalachian coal mining operations;
* A proposal by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) prohibiting the Interior Department from using funds to develop rules protecting streams from mountaintop removal mining waste;
* A measure sponsored by Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) to prohibit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from creating a new climate service;
* A proposal by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) blocking U.S. funding for the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change;
* A measure from Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) blocking EPA funding for stricter air pollution standards for coarse particulates;
* A proposal by Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) blocking EPA from imposing rules to cut mercury and other pollution from cement kilns.
The final amended legislation passed by a vote of 235 to 189 -- and came under harsh criticism from environmental advocates.
"The spending bill that passed early this morning is a shameful statement on the state of corporate-bought-and-paid-for politics in the House of Representatives," Martin Hayden, vice president of policy and legislation at Earthjustice, said Saturday. "Instead of slashing the excessive subsidies and offensive handouts to dirty energy industries, they have defunded the very programs that keep Americans safe and healthy."
(Photo of Rep. David McKinley from the House website.)