A bill to prohibit the EPA from regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee June 19, 31–16. The Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013 (H.R. 2218) would establish requirements for management and disposal of coal ash aimed at protecting human health and the environment, and allow EPA to step in to regulate coal ash if a state does not comply with the minimum standards.

Federal versus state oversight was one of the overarching discussions during committee markup.  Some members expressed concerns about lax state oversight while other members were concerned about too much EPA oversight. Democrats unsuccessfully offered a number of amendments to strengthen state oversight requirements.

Coal ash is generally managed under state law, as delegated by the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which is the primary federal law governing state and local management of solid waste. However, RCRA also directed EPA to examine the handling and management of coal ash.

In 2010, EPA proposed a rule that laid out two options for management of coal ash. One option would overturn current regulations and designate coal ash as a hazardous waste, thus eliminating the beneficial use market, while the second option proposed to maintain coal ash as a non-hazardous waste.

Coal ash is a byproduct of combustion at power plants and can cause health problems and environmental contamination if not properly handled.

Coal ash can also be recycled for beneficial uses, rather than simply disposed in landfills. Some local governments use coal ash as a major component in road bed construction projects. Additionally, byproducts are also heavily used in cement, concrete, brick, roofing materials, agriculture applications, paints, plastics, and snow and ice control.