Barletta Backs Bill to Reclaim Coal Refuse, Protect Environment, Save Jobs

Mar 15, 2016
Press Release
SENSE Act Fights Unattainable Limits under EPA Rule

WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta, PA-11, today backed legislation that makes it possible for coal-fired plants to use leftover waste coal, or culm, to generate energy, reclaim old coal mine lands, benefit the environment, and protect jobs.  The Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment (SENSE) Act, authored by Rep. Keith Rothfus, PA-12, seeks an alternative compliance standard as opposed to the ones set by the Environmental Protection Agency’s MATS Rule (Mercury and Air Toxics Standards).  Facilities that are able to burn coal refuse would be unable to attain the unreasonable standards set by the EPA rule.  The bill, H.R. 3797, passed the House by a vote of 231-to-183.  It now heads to the Senate for its consideration.

“In my part of the country, we are familiar with ‘coal refuse’ – a mixture of low-quality coal, rock, and dirt, which is left behind after mining,” Barletta said.  “This coal refuse has a much lower energy content, and for years it could not be processed efficiently or economically.  As a result, piles of it were left behind, which led to a variety of detrimental results: loss of vegetation and wildlife, and concentrated levels of acid drainage into local streams and ponds.  But the technology has advanced, and we can now reclaim that waste – the private sector can use the coal waste product to burn and generate electricity.  What’s left over after that can be used to restore the natural landscape, or refill abandoned mines.  But, once again, the Environmental Protection Agency couldn’t stand this type of progress.”

The SENSE Act establishes an alternative compliance standard for coal refuse facilities based upon the removal and control of Sulfur Dioxide.  The legislation comes as the War on Coal continues in the Obama Administration with the new MATS Rule.  In addition, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently pledged to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” if elected.

“In some parts of the country, and in some speeches on the campaign trail, it has become fashionable to attack the coal industry, and make its people out to be the bad guys,” Barletta said.  “Now, all of that might sound pretty good in certain focus groups, or around the cocktail party circuit, but let me tell you, where I come from, it sounds pretty devastating.  The coal industry – in no small part – helped build this country and make it a world leader.  It generates cheap electricity for millions of people.  And for many tens of thousands of people back home in Pennsylvania, it still provides a good living, and it puts food on the table.”

Barletta stressed that the SENSE Act provides a use for coal refuse, generates electricity, and protects jobs.  Additionally, it allows for the reclamation of land previously mined, meaning it can be put to use and placed back on the tax rolls, making for a positive impact on local governments. 

Barletta’s full remarks inserted into the record of the House of Representatives are as follows:

            Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of legislation that’s important to my part of Pennsylvania, and to all of the coal-producing regions of this country.

The SENSE Act, offered by my colleague from western Pennsylvania, Mr. Rothfus.

This bill is a long time coming.

In my part of the country, we are familiar with “coal refuse” – a mixture of low-quality coal, rock, and dirt, which is left behind after mining.  

This coal refuse has a much lower energy content, and for years it could not be processed efficiently or economically. 

As a result, piles of it were left behind, which led to a variety of detrimental results: loss of vegetation and wildlife, and concentrated levels of acid drainage into local streams and ponds.

But the technology has advanced, and we can now reclaim that waste – the private sector can use the coal waste product to burn and generate electricity.

What’s left over after that can be used to restore the natural landscape, or refill abandoned mines.

But, once again, the Environmental Protection Agency couldn’t stand this type of progress.

They came up with the MATS Rule – the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule. 

This sets certain unattainable levels for the industry.

The SENSE Act provides relief from these unrealistic limits.

It seeks to establish an alternative compliance standard for coal refuse facilities based upon the removal and control of Sulfur Dioxide.

Now, in some parts of the country, and in some speeches on the campaign trail, it has become fashionable to attack the coal industry, and make its people out to be the bad guys.

As a candidate, our current president promised to bankrupt the coal industry. 

And he has made a tremendous effort to do just that – including this MATS Rule from his EPA.

Just in the last few days, the frontrunner on the Democratic side promised that as president, she would put coal mines and coal miners out of work.

Now, all of that might sound pretty good in certain focus groups, or around the cocktail party circuit, but let me tell you … where I come from, it sounds pretty devastating.

The coal industry – in no small part – helped build this country and make it a world leader. 

It generates cheap electricity for millions of people. 

And for many tens of thousands of people back home in Pennsylvania, it still provides a good living, and it puts food on the table.

This bill makes sense – common sense. 

It provides a use for coal refuse, generates electricity, and protects jobs. 

And it will allow us to reclaim land previously mined, which means it has a positive impact on the environment. 

And when that land is reclaimed, it can again be put to use, and placed back on the tax rolls, making it good for local government.

I urge support for the SENSE Act. 

I yield back.

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