Today we’re gearing up for a vote on H.R. 2273, which is Rep. David McKinley’s (R-WV) attempt to give coal companies a get-out-of-jail free card.
Yesterday, House leaders in the Committee on Energy and Commerce discussed the nature of the legislation, which included much spirited back-and-forth dialogue. Among the highlights (and lowlights):
After the author of the bill, Rep. McKinley, threw around these categorically false statements, such as the declaration that coal is “no more toxic than the earth in your front yard” or “no more hazardous than the soil in our back yard,” it seemed that some House leaders just about had enough.
Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) called the bill out for what it was: “It is a green-light pass for utility companies to dispose of their waste without regard to public health or the environment.”
He then went on to call out his colleagues for absurdly claiming that coal ash – which is laden with mercury, lead, arsenic and hexavalent chromium – is not dangerous.
Last year, in a hearing I chaired, the Republican witness Dr. Donald McGraw even said he would be happy to sprinkle arsenic-laced coal ash on his cereal. Perhaps next week, the subcommittee will make a new space on the food pyramid for coal ash…The Republican bill takes us back in time to the era of magic tonics and medical quackery passed off as legitimate medicine.
Markey offered an amendment that would enable public involvement in the permitting process for these coal ash waste sites. Of course the amendment didn’t pass but we are proud that Markey understands that his constituents want and deserve clean water.
Ed Towns (D-NY) also offered an amendment, recognizing that coal ash places a disproportionate burden on low-income and people of color communities as well as the elderly, children and people with pre-existing health conditions. His amendment, of course, failed passage.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) summed it all up prior to proposing an amendment to ensure that EPA would have authority to inspect dangerous coal ash dumps and enforce against polluters who violated regulations. He had this to say about clean water:
Many of my constituents believe that there is no greater role for Congress to play than to protect their lives and livelihoods by ensuring that all American citizens have access to clean air and water.
Rep. Rush also read from a letter from nearly 200 citizens living near ash ponds. The letter reads in part:
Do our lives matter to you? Is protecting coal ash “recycling” more important than our health or the quality of our drinking water? As you consider this legislation, please don’t forget about us. We are not ‘against the coal industry.’ We simply want the laws that are supposed to protect people to be enforced.
The Republicans soundly defeated this amendment, as well. Stay tuned today at 3:30 pm when the committee resumes debate on this legislation.