Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) echoed that notion at an Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing two days later. Matheson's top campaign contributor for the current election cycle is Ceramatec Inc., a materials science company in his Salt Lake City district that is exploring new ways to recycle coal ash.
The company, whose political action committees and individuals have donated $10,000 to Matheson's campaign according to nonpartisan watchdog Open Secrets, has conveyed to Matheson through several forums that a hazardous designation would cripple its recycling programs, Ceramatec chemist Chett Boxley said in an interview.
On the other side are environmentalists and construction industry stakeholders who maintain that a hazardous-waste designation won't doom ash recycling efforts.
"It's really hard to say how markets react and what ultimately happens once you have that kind of designation," said Scot Horst, senior vice president of the U.S. Green Building Council. "I know, just from talking to people, that that's what the fear is, but EPA has the ability to make a ruling any way it wants.
"It could say that beneficial use isn't a hazardous material, but the waste is, and I suspect that's the work that they're trying to figure out."
The council offers incentives for builders to use the ash in concrete in its famous LEED program for certifying "green" buildings, and those incentives would remain in place even under a hazardous determination, Horst said.
RCRA gives EPA flexibility to craft a "hybrid" hazardous designation that would set strong disposal standards but make exemptions to encourage recycling, Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans said.
Evans argues that other materials classified as hazardous wastes -- such as spent solvents and steel production byproducts -- enjoy robust recycling programs, and there is no reason to believe coal ash could not as well.
"People are acting as if this is the first time that hazardous waste would ever re-enter the stream of commerce," Evans said. "That's really far from true."
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500