PARKERSBURG - A motion by a West Virginia representative urging a conference committee on the Transportation Bill to keep language preventing the classification of coal ash as a hazardous waste was approved by the House of Representatives.
The motion in the Republican-controlled House was by Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., and its passage was with bipartisan support, he said.
"Yet again we've shown strong bipartisan support for this provision in protecting the ability to reuse coal ash," said McKinley. "This is about saving jobs and maximizing government construction dollars. More than 316,000 jobs will be saved if this provision is included.
In April, the House passed the coal ash amendment in the Surface Transportation Extension Act. Coal ash is the waste from combustion, mostly at power plants, and is used in the construction industry.
The Senate passed a transportation bill which is in conference committee, of which Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. Rockefeller in April said the coal ash provision in the bill "was going down" and that it didn't have the support of the Senate.
"This unrelated amendment is not only ensuring that coal ash continues to poison our communities, it poisons a much-needed transportation bill and puts at risk the 2.9 million jobs that this legislation will provide," said Lisa Evans, a senior administrative counsel, for Earthjustice, an environmental group founded by the Sierra Club.
The Transportation Bill is before House and Senate conferees.
Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., brought forth a motion to keep language preventing the classification of coal ash as a hazardous waste in the bill.
The motion passed in the House 260-138.
The House used a procedural move to pressure conference committee members in both chambers to adopt the unrelated rider on coal ash in the transportation bill, she said.
"The House is back at it again, willingly ignoring the deadly poisons that are contaminating water supplies from coal ash dumps and putting legislation designed to provide millions of American jobs at risk," Evans said. "Today's symbolic vote has no real impact, but sends a clear message to millions of Americans who are exposed to coal ash pollution: 260 Representatives who voted for this nonsense don't care about your health."
Evans called it an abomination and it's time for the Environmental Protection Agency to move forward with federally enforceable safeguards that will protect public health.
"If we leave it up to our elected officials, the nearly 200 cases of water contaminated by coal ash will only get worse, more sites will become contaminated, and impacted communities will continue to bear the burden of this poisonous legacy," she said.
The motion approved 260-138. McKinley, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., voted in favor.
"After fighting hard on this issue for over a year, I'm grateful for my colleagues' continued support. The chance to save thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in costs is one step closer because Congress has spoken in a strong, bipartisan manner," McKinley said. "My hope is that conferees continue productive negotiations on this issue."