WHEELING - West Virginia's Democrat senators are supporting a bill to stop fly ash from being regulated as a hazardous material by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin are among the original co-sponsors of House Bill 2273, the "Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act." The measure was first introduced in the House by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.
West Virginia's congressional delegation is united in its support of the bill, believing tougher regulation of fly ash would add to the cost of energy produced by coal-fired electrical plants - and to the electric bills paid by most consumers.
"We're trying to make it fly," Manchin said. "The EPA is depicting something as a hazard when it was never before believed to be a hazard."
The House passed the bill by a vote of 267-144 on Oct. 14 with all three House members from West Virginia voting for it.
Manchin acknowledged many bills passed recently by the House are getting pigeonholed in the Senate.
"I sure hope it doesn't," he said of the fly ash bill. "I'm hoping common sense prevails."
West Virginia officials have been able to contain fly ash and make certain it doesn't affect water supplies, according to Manchin.
He said the material has been used in Marshall County by the CertainTeed company to make gypsum board used by the construction industry - and to employ local residents in the process.
"We have found a way to value, and they (the EPA) want to knock people out of jobs," Manchin said. President Barack Obama "is the one who has the final say, and he understands we are working within the balance of the economy."
Rockefeller said the bill "is an important issue for West Virginia."
"I'm glad to have helped introduce this bipartisan bill in the Senate," he said. "It will allow businesses throughout West Virginia to have some certainty about the regulations they need to comply with, it will continue to protect miners' jobs, and it will improve protections to public safety. I look forward to working with my colleagues to move this bill forward."