House energy panel backs bill to give states authority to manage coal ash

A House committee has approved a bill granting states authority to regulate waste generated from coal burned for electricity, largely bypassing a federal rule issued last year.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill 32-19 Wednesday, sending the measure to the full House. The bill is sponsored by Republican Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia, who said it would improve a rule issued in December by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA rule set the first national standards for so-called coal ash, treating it more like household garbage than a hazardous material.

McKinley said the EPA rule leaves open the possibility that coal ash could be designated as hazardous, creating uncertainty for industry.

Environmental groups say the bill would strip important safety requirements included in the EPA rule.