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Absolutely NO on HR 2218

This week the House will vote on the “Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013” (HR 2218) sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV). The bill ruthlessly guts longstanding public health and environmental protections of the nation’s decades-old statute protecting communities from solid and hazardous waste disposal. This shameless industry giveaway creates a giant loophole for the toxic waste generated by coal-fired power plants.

This is the fifth time since 2011 the House will vote on a McKinley abomination that allows the nation’s second largest industrial waste stream to escape federal safeguards. Enough toxic coal ash is produced each year to fill a freight train that would stretch from the North to the South Poles—waste that is filled with toxic chemicals like arsenic, chromium, lead and mercury.

This latest iteration is the most deadly. Among other atrocities, it allows leaking coal ash impoundments to operate indefinitely—even if they are gushing toxic chemicals into aquifers; it limits EPA authority to take over state programs—even if those programs are failing to protect human health; and it potentially blocks all future EPA rules concerning coal ash—including EPA’s recently proposed Clean Water Act rule addressing toxic wastewater from coal plants.

Stalwart critics of HR 2218 include the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The nonpartisan think tank found in three separate reports that the bill does not guarantee protection of health and the environment nor does it mandate minimum national standards to control toxic coal ash pollution. Congressmen Waxman, Tonko, Dingell and Rush have expressed their outrage that such a dangerous piece of legislation should pass the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

But sharp criticism by CRS, the public and members of Congress has not deterred Rep. McKinley from creating dangerous new loopholes and offering ever larger gifts to the coal industry in HR 2218. McKinley is second only to Speaker Boehner in the amount of money received from the coal mining and electric power utilities industries. In fact, McKinley has received 18 times more in contributions from these industries than the average for all members of the House of Representatives.

But the most outraged are those with the least resources to fight and the most to lose. Millions of American citizens who live near coal plants, disproportionately from low income communities and communities of color, are threatened by the toxic chemicals in coal ash that enter their air, water and backyards.

The health, environment and livelihoods of citizens in Montana, Virginia, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland, Tennessee, Indiana and across the nation have been severely harmed by this senseless favor to a polluting industry. HR 2218 promises there will be more.

Shame on those members who are trying to ensure the coal industry never has to be truly responsible for its mess and the people it hurts.

The bill is scheduled for a full vote in the House this week, possibly as early as today.