Bipartisan group takes the correct approach on coal ash

A broad, bipartisan coalition of lawmakers supports Rep. David McKinley’s bill to regulate coal ash.

Democrats in the Senate should take the same open-minded view of the measure.

House of Representatives members approved the bill, HR 2218, last week, by a wide margin and with bipartisan support.

McKinley, R-W.Va., has waged a long, intense campaign to craft rules on coal ash, generated in large quantities by industries including many power plants.

He began his quest after hearing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intends to regulate the material as toxic waste.

Clearly, the EPA’s move is part of the war on coal – and reasonable prices for electricity – being waged by President Barack Obama’s administration. The coal ash initiative is just one of several tactics being used in an attempt to shut down even more power plants than the 220 or so coal-fired units already closed or scheduled to be shuttered.

But McKinley, a professional engineer, understands the ramifications of proposed EPA action. It would affect not just power plants and other industries, but construction. Coal ash is an important component of concrete.

McKinley’s bill actually establishes for the first time a comprehensive system to regulate coal ash. States would be in charge of the process, but certain federal rules would have to be followed. For example, new safeguards involving coal ash impoundments are included.

Fifty-four lawmakers signed on to McKinley’s bill as co-sponsors – and they include 11 Democrats from 10 states.

There is a reason thoughtful Democrats support McKinley’s bill: They understand the EPA’s plan would have serious consequences for most Americans, and that the agency’s plan is far more draconian than necessary.

In the Senate, Obama and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., use an iron fist approach in demanding Democrat support for all aspects of the war on coal. A few Democrat senators, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia, already have had the courage to stand up for their constituents instead of bowing to party discipline.

More Senate Democrats should take that approach, for the good of the people they represent. McKinley’s bill should be approved by the Senate, by a majority sufficient to withstand a veto by the White House.