Republican Representative David McKinley from West Virginia has proposed a bill  that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating toxic coal ash. The EPA has not yet made a decision on whether or not to classify coal ash as toxic, but reports show that the substance poses significant risks to human health.
McKinley is the sponsor of HR 1391, formally known as Recycling Coal Combustion Residuals Accessibility Act of 2011 , a bill that would strip the EPA of their ability to exempt toxic coal ash from the EPA’s “Subtitle C” classification. Subtitle C lays out the guidelines  that the agency follows in order to regulate toxic substances from “the cradle to the grave,” meaning that they provide oversight throughout the cycle of any form of hazardous waste. It also gives the agency the authority to conduct periodic inspections of plants producing hazardous wastes, as well as providing states and cities with training programs in how to manage these wastes.
But McKinley is adamantly opposed to classifying coal ash as a toxic substance, and even went as far as to use his position on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to promote the use of coal ash. From a recent op-ed by McKinley, posted on the Committee’s website :
“Twice under the Clinton administration, in 1993 and 2000, the EPA studied this issue and concluded each time that coal ash is non-hazardous. But now, they are revisiting coal ash regulation — not because of new science — but simply because the EPA is controlled by an ideologically motivated president who has actually said he wants to “bankrupt” coal.”
As we’ve reported in the past, coal ash is known to contain  the carcinogen hexavalent chromium, as well as toxic levels of mercury. We’ve also shown  how manufacturers of coal ash have poured millions  of dollars into lobbying campaigns to promote the use, and prevent a toxic classification for coal ash.
But after looking into McKinley’s campaign coffers , it is no surprise that he is fighting tooth and nail to prevent coal ash from being labeled as toxic. He has received more than $83,000 from the mining industry – the single largest industry to donate to his campaign. But it isn’t just the mining industry that has put money behind McKinley – big oil got in on the game as well . Exxon Mobil put $8,000 in his pockets, and the Koch brothers threw in another $10,000. An interesting note about this freshman Congressman – 66% of his campaign contributions came from out of state. Not bad for a man who had never held a federal office before.
And his stance on other issues is reflected by this money. During his campaign, he desperately proclaimed on his website : “The War on Coal must stop! Liberal Washington politicians and bureaucrats have been trying to limit coal production at all costs. I oppose any version of the cap and trade legislation that negatively impacts our coal industry. With our country using less coal, we will become more and more dependent on foreign energy.” He is also a staunch supporter of offshore drilling  in U.S. waters. And in his seemingly never-ending battle against the environment, he also co-sponsored legislation that would have amended the clean air act to no longer consider the following gases as “pollutants”: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.
McKinley’s legislation, which is still being debated in Committee  and has not yet been brought to the floor for consideration, would have far-reaching impacts on the environment. Not only would it prevent the EPA from monitoring coal ash, but any waste product produced  by the burning of fossil fuels. Let’s hope that this bill stays stalled in the Energy Committee before any damage can be done.