More than two years ago, millions of gallons of toxic coal ash sludge broke through a waste pond at the Kingston Fossil plant and created a waking nightmare for citizens in Roane County, Tennessee. Those citizens -- many of them now suffering health consequences related to the ash -- still wait for strong regulations that could prevent a similar disaster for other communities near ash ponds.
In the aftermath of the Kingston event, many in the US Congress seemed to be interested in moving forward on tighter regulation of coal ash. The EPA finally came out with a proposed coal ash rule, and citizens from all over the country testified at official (and unofficial) hearings to express their concerns. But in April this year, Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) introduced H.R 1391, a bill to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating fossil fuel combustion waste under subtitle C of the Solid Waste Disposal Act.
Yesterday's Tr-Ash Talk Bog at Earthjustice explored Rep. McKinley's possible motivation for a bill that clearly works against public health and safety, and the disappointment of Curt Havens, a West Virginia citizen who says McKinley promised to protect communities from another Kingston-style coal ash disaster:
Some of our elected leaders are once more maneuvering to block much-needed health protections against coal ash. Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) has sponsored a bill that would broadly remove federal authority for any regulation of coal ash ever. This bill, if enacted, also would conveniently protect his business interests. In April, Politico exposed Rep. McKinley’s business interest in ensuring that coal ash is not regulated. Rep McKinley owns the largest engineering firm in West Virginia and his company uses coal ash in concrete, as fill for roads and other uses.
Rep. McKinley also represents a district that has the largest coal ash pond in the nation, and his bill goes against what he promised West Virginian Curt Havens, veteran and constituent. Havens was at the Energy and Commerce hearing in April, when Rep. McKinley said, about prior coal ash threats, "I want to make sure that never happens again to another family in America." (Those comments start at minute marker 2:26:26.) Again, business interests are coming before the interest of protecting public health.
We, the people, need to keep pressure on our representatives to keep bad legislation from suppressing the protection that stronger regulation under Subtitle C would give us. HR 1391 will be be marked up in the Environment and Economy subcommittee of Energy and Commerce Committee next Thursday, June 21. Please contact subcommittee committee members and let them know what you think.