House of Representatives Votes to Limit Restrictions on Dumping Coal Ash Waste into Water Supply

Saturday, July 25, 2015
Rep. David McKinley

Lawmakers in the U.S. House are trying to curtail new environmental rules on coal ash set to go into effect in the fall.


The House this week approved H.R. 1734, the Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act, which takes aim at regulations approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in October that are intended to prevent the coal industry from dumping coal ash into water supplies.


“There are very big differences [between the bill and the EPA rule] that have huge impacts on public safety,” Lisa Evans, an attorney with Earthjustice, told ClimateProgress.


H.R. 1734 would delay implementation of coal ash disposal restrictions, allow utilities to avoid publicly posting contamination data, and permit companies to continue dumping coal ash into leaking surface impounds for as many as eight years after contamination is documented, according to ClimateProgress’ Samantha Page.


The bill is sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-West Virginia), who appears to be doing the bidding of his sponsors. His top five political donors, according to, are Mepco, a coal company; Steptoe and Johnson, an energy law firm; Preston Contractors, which works in the oil and natural gas, coal, landfill, and quarry industries; Swanson Industries, which deals with mining equipment; and Murray Energy, one of the largest coal mining companies.


The EPA wants stronger federal rules on coal ash because it found only five of 25 states surveyed prohibit disposing of coal ash into groundwater, even though it contains toxic chemicals like arsenic, chromium, mercury, and lead.


“It makes absolutely no sense,” Evans said of the bill, noting that even household waste can’t be legally disposed into aquifers. “It’s absurd and it’s unreasonable.”


It’s unlikely the House bill will become law, however. President Barack Obama has promised to veto it should it reach his desk.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

House Passes Bill That Would Allow Toxic Coal Ash Into Groundwater (by Samantha Page, ClimateProgress)

Coal Ash Bill Provides Some Certainty For Utilities (by Barbara Vergetis Lundin, Fierce Energy)

Coal Ash Bill Clears U.S. House (by Sonal Patel, Power)

HR 1734 ( (pdf)

Tennessee Groups Sue TVA over Dumping of Toxic Waste in Unlined Ash Ponds (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Duke Energy Admits Guilt in Coal Ash Spill Case (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

EPA Declines to Classify Coal Ash as Hazardous Waste (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)


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