Western Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation President, Denny Beck, testified before a subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Wednesday in support of H.R. 3797, the Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment (SENSE) Act.
The bill aims to establish the basis by which the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would issue, implement, and enforce certain emission limitations and allocations for existing electric utility steam generating units that convert coal refuse into energy.
More specifically, SENSE seeks to establish alternative compliance standards for coal refuse facilities based upon the removal and control of sulfur dioxide relative to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule (MATS).
The SENSE Act also seeks to provide coal refuse-fired power plants with the same S02 allocations in Phase II as in Phase I of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) while ensuring that CSAPR does not increase the overall state-level CSAPR SO2 budget.
Beck’s testimony noted that there are two types of coal-fired electricity generating plants: large coal-fired power plants that use deep mined coal and surface mined coal to produce energy versus small waste coal to energy plants that clean the pollution left behind by the region’s former unregulated coal mining practices. The SENSE Act focuses on the second category.
Beck also testified that runoff from waste coal piles pollutes surface and groundwater with heavy metals and changes in pH and if left unreclaimed, the piles have the potential to self ignite spewing these same chemicals into the air.
Beck gave the following personal experience he has had with the waste coal industry-- "The 3 Co-Generation plants in my county (waste coal burning), have significantly impacted our county: They have:
-- Burned over 25 million tons of waste coal, supplying electricity to 280,000 residences,
directly employ 200 people and indirectly 300 more county residents;
-- Reclaimed over 525 acres of abandoned mine lands;
-- Contributed over $25 million to the local communities; and
-- Won numerous State and National Environmental and Safety awards since 1992.”
He went on to describe to projects that his county has benefitted from:
"In Revloc (Cambria County) the Blacklick Creek was a dead stream for several decades. Since it has been restored, over 100 acres have been returned to productive use. Runoff pollution has been reduced to the South branch of Blacklick creek and it is now designated as a Cold Water Fishery by the Fish and Boat Commission. The area is also now subdivided for housing.
“In Washington Twp (Cambria County), 3.5 million tons of waste coal have been removed and in its place are now 4 ball fields, 2.5 miles of walking trails, a community hall, a Coal Miners’ monument, and a bell tower. It is now a gathering place for the entire community, both young and old, improving the vitality of a once dying community. A contractor has also subdivided numerous acres for housing growth.
“All of these and other reclaimed acres have been at NO COST to the taxpayer.
“If waste coal fired plants are forced to close due to unreasonable regulations, streams will continue to be contaminated, public safety will continue to be at risk due to the dangers the piles pose, piles will continue to self-ignite and spew the same pollutants into the air that the regulations are trying to curtail, and communities will continue to be shadowed by the unsightly black mountains. All of this would be a taxpayer burden.”
WPCAMR supports the equitable regulations proposed in the SENSE Act that will help the waste coal industry stay in business and continue to help our communities recover from our unregulated coal mining history and prosper into the future.
Letters from the public can be sent to your Congressman and/or Congressman Rothfus, the sponsor of the SENSE Act.
A copy of Beck’s testimony is available online. Click Here for a copy of H.R. 3797. Click Here for other remarks presented at the Subcommittee hearing.(Written By: Anne Daymut, Watershed Coordinator, Western Coalition For Abandoned Mine Reclamation. Click Here to sign up to receive regular updates from WCAMR.)