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Subcommittee Presses EPA Official on Impact of Potential Regulations on Energy Costs, Small Businesses

Washington,D.C. , July 22, 2010 -

Today, the House Committee on Small Business’ Subcommittee on Rural Development, Entrepreneurship and Trade held a hearing entitled “Coal Combustion Byproducts: Potential Impact of a Hazardous Waste Designation on Small Businesses in the Recycling Industry.” The hearing examined the potential impact that proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on coal combustion byproducts (CCBs) would have on entrepreneurs in the recycling industry.

One of the most useful CCBs is fly ash, which is a fine, powdery CCB produced by coal-fired electricity generators that is incorporated into concrete.  It is possible that EPA will seek to classify fly ash and other CCBs as hazardous waste, which would likely increase the regulatory burden on the construction industry and small businesses that recycle CCBs.  According to EPA’s own analysis, approximately 13.4 million tons of coal ash are used in concrete or cement production annually.  

Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, said, “During the last 20 years, EPA has considered whether to determine that CCBs should be hazardous waste, and each time it has found that they should not.  Nothing in the physical or chemical characteristics of these products has changed. 

“It is my belief that the designation of fly ash as a hazardous waste is counter to the goal of sustainability or even good for the environment.  CCBs increase the durability of the nation’s infrastructure, thereby requiring less reconstruction and associated runoff of pollutants from construction sites.  Fly ash is commonly accepted and used worldwide, and its use is a key strategy to sustainable construction, reducing hazardous waste disposal needs and limiting creation of greenhouse gases.  CCBs increase the durability of the nation’s transportation infrastructure and double its useful life.  EPA has not considered any of this in its proposed rule.”

Representative Luetkemeyer also stated, “If EPA continues down this path and resists the call from 121 members of Congress to abandon its preferred course of action -- designating CCBs as hazardous wastes -- I believe that there will be sufficient bipartisan support to take legislative action to address EPA’s regulatory overreach.”

During the hearing, Subcommittee Members discussed the potential EPA regulations with Lisa Feldt, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.  Representative Luetkemeyer and Representative Glenn Thompson (R-PA) questioned Ms. Feldt about a potential 6 percent increase in electricity rates that could be imposed upon Americans as a result of the EPA proposal to regulate CCBs as hazardous waste.  As Representative Thompson pointed out, this 6 percent estimate fails to take into account other pending EPA energy regulations, such as those that may result from EPA’s recent designation of greenhouse gases as hazardous materials, which could cause even more devastation for small businesses.  

For video from today’s hearing, click here.