Fly Ash: If Jobs are a Priority, Why the Regulatory Overkill?

By September 10, 2010Energy, Regulations

From Ben Lieberman at, the blog of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “Kiss Your Ash Goodbye — Regulating Coal Combustion Byproducts As Hazardous Is An Unnecessary Job Killer“:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to regulate carbon dioxide as an air pollutant is currently garnering most of the attention from the agency’s critics, but it is far from the only problematic EPA regulation in the works. Another proposal that also deserves strong opposition is the agency’s attempt to label coal combustion byproducts (CCBs) as hazardous waste. Doing so is not only environmentally unnecessary but downright counterproductive, and would raise energy costs and kill jobs to boot.

Like several other Obama administration regulations, this extreme proposal goes well beyond anything contemplated under Bush or under Clinton. In fact, it was the Clinton administration EPA that concluded in 2000 that CCBs, chiefly the fly ash from burning coal to produce electricity, should be categorized as non-hazardous and handled in a manner not unlike municipal solid waste. The Obama administration has offered no convincing evidence that this determination was wrong and that CCBs pose a public health threat. Nonetheless, it is moving forward with the hazardous proposal.

The EPA’s proposed rule and other background materials are available here. The National Association of Manufacturers’ Alicia Oman testified at a public hearing the EPA sponsored in Arlington, Va., on Aug. 30. Her statement highlights the beneficial uses of fly ash and points to the economic consequences of this ill-considered, extreme proposal. Excerpt:

Reclassification of CCRs as a hazardous waste is likely to increase transportation costs, both for power generators and manufacturers who generate their own CCRs, by channeling material to sites that are designed to handle hazardous waste. One food processing facility that generates CCRs estimates that their costs for transportation and disposal could increase from $120,000 to approximately $20 million per year if the material were regulated as a hazardous waste.

In addition, manufacturers are concerned that the Subtitle C option will result in the loss of important high-paying jobs in the CCR beneficial reuse market. CCRs are used to manufacture products such as concrete and wallboard and can also be used in road transportation applications. Federal policies should encourage the beneficial reuse of industrial byproducts and other manufacturing initiatives that make economic and environmental sense.

The EPA is continuing its series of public hearings on the proposed regulation, including two meetings next week in Charlotte and Chicago. Among the many valid arguments against the reg, we hope those offering statements make this point: “Your proposal runs directly contrary to the Obama Adminstration’s emphasis on jobs.”

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