Press Releases

Rep. Long votes to support environmentally sound coal plants, curb EPA rule impact

Congressman Billy Long (MO-07) issued the following statement today following the passage of H.R. 3797, the "Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment (SENSE) Act, which ensures environmentally beneficial coal refuse-to-energy facilities put at risk by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules can continue cleanup projects in America's coal country.

“Like all Americans relying heavily on coal supplied power, Missourians earning their living in the coal industry and their customer ratepayers should not have to fear administration rulemaking,” said Rep. Long.“This bill is crucial to ensuring that EPA regulations imposed on coal energy facilities are realistic, while still curbing pollutants emitted when recycling refuse waste into energy.”

H.R. 3797 – The ‘SENSE’ Act:

H.R. 3797 addresses the application of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for Power Plants (MATS) to power plants that utilize coal refuse to generate electricity.

It provides flexibility to these coal refuse-to-energy plants by:

  1. Allocating additional sulfur dioxide allowances under the CSAPR program to coal refuse-to-energy facilities. Allowances would be reduced elsewhere in the program so each state’s total number of allowances would not change.
  2. Creating an alternate means to demonstrate compliance with the hydrochloric acid standard in MATS by using sulfur dioxide as a proxy.

Additionally, this legislation prohibits these coal refuse-to-waste plants from transferring unused sulfur dioxide allowance allocations to another facility. These plants, however, could bank the unused allowances for compliance with CSAPR in future years.

Background:

Coal refuse is the aboveground waste produce of coal mining found near many abandoned mines in Pennsylvania and other coal mining areas. These coal refuse piles pose a number of environmental and safety threats. Coal refuse-to-energy facilities are designed to recycle the coal refuse by using it as an energy source to generate affordable, reliable electricity. There are 19 coal refuse-to-energy facilities, including 14 in Pennsylvania.

On July 6, 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized CSAPR which requires reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from electric generating units located in the 28 states covered by the rule. There are two phases to CSAPR. Phase 1 implementation began in 2015. Phase 2, in which additional reductions need to be made, is scheduled for implementation beginning in 2017.

On February 16, 2012, EPA finalized the MATS rule that requires reductions in emissions of mercury and other air toxins, including certain acid gases from power plants. On June 29, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that EPA erred when the agency concluded that costs did not need to be considered in determining whether to issue the MATS rule. The EPA is still in the process of responding to this ruling, most recently with a November 20, 2015 proposed supplemental finding concluding that consideration of costs would not have altered EPA's decision to issue the original rule.

Many operators of the coal refuse-to-energy plants have expressed concerns that some of the requirements in CSAPR and MATS may force them to cease operations. According to the bill sponsor, this bill "ensures coal refuse plants can continue restoring the environment, protecting health, and creating hundreds of good paying jobs."

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