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Tr-Ash Talk: A House United Against Clean Water

On Friday, in a 267–144 vote, a majority of House members voted to keep allowing coal ash to pollute our drinking water. The passage of the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act (H.R. 2273) lets states choose to adopt a disposal standard less protective than those for household garbage.

The bill fails to protect communities from drinking water polluted by arsenic, hexavalent chromium and other cancer-causing chemicals or disasters like the TVA spill. It doesn’t even take the most basic step of eliminating wet disposal ponds, which both EPA’s proposed options include. Further, it doesn’t create a federally enforceable baseline standard and serves solely to establish a toothless regime that treats this ash with fewer protections than household garbage.

Under the leadership of Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), the GOP-controlled House has taken aim at public health and transparency, undermining the efforts of the EPA to use the best available science to complete their public rulemaking addressing coal ash.

McKinley worked for months to gather his allies. Along with supporters like the National Mining Association and Edison Electric Institute, 37 Democrats voted yes to this terrible legislation, including members like Reps Kaptur (OH), Sutton (OH), Fudge (OH), Moore (WI), and Baldwin (WI) who previously voted against a less egregious coal ash legislative matter earlier this year. Reps Clyburn (SC), DeFazio (OR), Schrader (OR) and Tim Ryan (OH) are other notable flip-floppers who supported the dangerous bill.

Luckily, we have members like Reps Waxman, Edwards, Rush, Moran, and Markey, who took to the floor to deliver thorough, fact-based floor statements in opposition to the bill. Encouraging No votes were cast by Reps Altmire (PA), Sewell (AL), DeGette (CO), Shuler (NC), Loebsack (IA), Lipinski (IL) and others willing to vote to protect public health. Three Republicans, Reps Smith (NJ), LoBiondo (NJ) and Wolf (VA), also voted against this toothless measure. See the full list of votes.

Unfortunately, North Dakota Senators Conrad and Hoeven introduced the same abysmal bill in the Senate yesterday. Hopefully, the Senate will follow the White House’s lead and recognize that this bill does not include even basic protections. We can only hope that the Senate will see this bill for what it is—a creation of a polluter paradise at the expense of public health.

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