And Stant added, "The job of EPA first and foremost ... is to prevent wastes from causing harm. It is not to worry over whether the concrete industry is going to have some component stigmatized."
Push at White House, on Hill
The industry is working hard to promote its argument about recycling or "beneficial use" of coal-combustion waste. After all, that argument was key in persuading the Clinton administration's EPA in 2000 to forego regulation of ash under the Resource Conservation and Reclamation Act (RCRA).
Industry groups have met 16 times with EPA, the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) since October to discuss ash regulations and question their potential effect on recycling programs, according to documents posted on the OMB Web site.
Among the players are American Electric Power Co. Inc., Duke Energy Corp., the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, the American Coal Ash Association, the National Association of Manufacturers and lobbyist Lisa Jaeger, who was EPA's acting general counsel during the George W. Bush administration. Jaeger is representing the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners.
During that same period, Obama administration officials discussed the ash issue in four meetings with environmentalists and two with health professionals.
"By executive order, if a stakeholder on a proposal asks to meet with OMB (OIRA), they are required to take the meeting," an administration official said in a statement. "For this proposal, OIRA has met with groups on both sides of the issue. The numbers of meetings that 'one side' gets versus another is not indicative of one side getting more input into the process."
EPA declined to comment for this story, but the agency is crafting its decision on a coal ash standard with beneficial use in mind, Stan Meiburg, acting director of EPA's Region 4, told Congress at a hearing last month.
The agency is struggling to find a way forward. After pledging early last year to decide the ash issue by December, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced last month the "complexity of the analysis" of the matter had delayed the decision.
Meanwhile, the industry groups' pitch has struck a chord in Congress. "Beneficial use" was cited in a letter signed by 25 senators and more than 70 House members last month that asked Jackson to forgo the hazardous designation.
The argument was repeated at two December House hearings on ash regulations. "How could coal ash be hazardous in a landfill and not hazardous in recycling?" Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) asked at a House Transportation and Infrastructure hearing Dec. 9. "It's frightening that we come up with that sort of illogical ruling."