Sen. Jay Rockefeller supports the recycling of coal ash for other uses - but he does not support an amendment to the House transportation bill that seeks to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating coal ash as a hazardous substance.
The amendment was placed in the bill by its author, Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., who has criticized Rockefeller for not supporting his effort against coal ash regulation.
"I want to clear up Congressman McKinley's misleading comments about my position on coal ash," said Rockefeller, D-W.Va. "I do not and have never supported federal efforts to label coal ash as a hazardous waste, and he knows it. Reuse and recycling of coal ash is absolutely in the best interests of West Virginia and the country. We just need to make sure that concerns about health and the environment are addressed, too.
"But let's be honest. Coal ash and two other environmental provisions were added to the otherwise empty House highway bill in order to create controversy, not to solve problems," he continued. "Setting standards for coal ash impoundments is, and always has been, an environmental question. Pushing this or any other controversial provision will bring down a highway bill that West Virginia workers desperately need."
The need for road improvements in West Virginia is of immediate importance, he continued.
"I'm going to keep working on coal ash reuse, but I'm not going to pretend to West Virginians that it's ready or right for the highway bill," Rockefeller noted. "We need roads and bridges and the jobs that go with them in our state, not political games. House Republicans want to cut transportation funding more deeply than ever before, and they should stop trying to distract West Virginians from the harm of their real agenda."
On April 18, the House voted to extend federal transportation funding through September. The measure passed on to the Senate included McKinley's coal ash amendment, as well as another provision permitting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The White House has threatened to veto the bill if it passes the Senate.
McKinley said Wednesday he agreed with the overall transportation bill. But he noted the Senate's version didn't include any reference to protecting coal ash, a key ingredient used in concrete for building roads and bridges.
"We need the Senate to support this in conference to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs of working men and women in West Virginia and all over the nation," McKinley said. "This provision is backed by businesses, manufacturers, coal miners and utility companies that have a vested interest in job creation and job retention in the state of West Virginia."
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., wants passage of both a transportation bill and McKinley's coal ash amendment.
"I strongly believe this Congress needs to pass a long-term transportation bill that will allow our states to make planning decisions for years to come and that invests in our critical infrastructure priorities," Manchin said. "Investing in infrastructure is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea - it's an American idea.
"I strongly believe in this coal ash provision, and I would like to see all possible avenues explored so that this commonsense measure will become the law of the land."