“Face palm: EPA bureaucrat tap dances during testimony“. (Revised for clarity.) I’m back from the Boston Marathon and I found a note in my inbox from a website supporter. A new example of Anthony Watts’ enthusiasm for Republican politics has landed, this time as a post by Ryan Maue. Ryan, who must spend a lot of time learning science from Congressional hearings, thinks the Republicans ‘scored one’ by rattling an EPA witness with some political posturing over coal ash.
Ryan’s scientifically skeptical mind swallows the Republican rhetoric whole and sees only the “job-killing nature of the EPA’s regulations” and “how in-the-tank the media is for [Obama's] ’12 re-election.” He thoroughly approves of the fact that “the GOP wants to eliminate the EPA’s current attempt/ability to regulate greenhouse gases (CO2) and, here, coal-ash”. Damn the torpedoes! Unleash the country’s economic engine! Science has no place in our economy!
So what happened at the Environment and Energy subcommittee hearing? Rep. Cory Gardner (R – Colorado) squawked Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! when questioning EPA Deputy Administrator Mathy Stanislaus after his testimony, which concerned the uses of coal ash. Coal ash, as noted approvingly by Republican organ The Daily Caller in EPA official says jobs don’t matter, is ”used to make concrete stronger and longer lasting, make wallboard more durable and improve the quality of roofing shingles.” The EPA prepared testimony was that they were not concerned with such encapsulated uses.
Coal ash is also used in unencapsulated ways. That’s the stuff that can leach toxic metals such as arsenic, selenium, cadmium, lead, and mercury into drinking water and which, unsurprisingly, is an environmental concern that the EPA is obligated to address.
“EPA does not consider… sand and gravel pits, quarries, and other large fill operations to be beneficial use. EPA views this as disposal and would regulate”
“EPA believes that the great bulk of beneficial uses, particularly in an encapsulated form, like in concrete and wallboard, do not raise concerns and offer environmental benefits. However, some questions have been raised about the use… in an unencapsulated form”
The idea of encouraging corporations to give away their coal ash waste for use in structural fill arose during George W. Bush’s administration with 70 million tons of predictable consequences.
Stanislaus did indeed seem “visibly dumbfounded” by Gardner’s apparent belief that coal ash somehow creates jobs, that the impact on employment is the only factor in a cost-benefit analysis, and that of course no-one should stand in the way of jobs. Ryan Maue declares that Stanislaus’ response is “cringe-inducing as he spun like a top attempting to deflect the very pointed, and basic yes-or-no questions” but it seems more like a polite attempt to gloss over the questioner’s ignorance. Like for instance that job creation would be a perfectly conventional benefit in a cost/benefit analysis and that job losses would be a cost. Could Rep. Gardner really think that the impact on employment is the only factor in a cost-benefit analysis, and that some weird EPA version of that process of analysis specifically excludes it? I suppose it’s easier to shout, regardless of actual consequences, about protecting American Jobs.
That is the “face palm” here.
It seems to me that Gardner’s posturing was designed to protect power company profits, not jobs. Proper disposal of coal ash would be an extra cost to the power companies, and any replacement for coal ash in structural uses would entail new extraction and processing jobs… But that’s just me getting sidetracked by the apparent subject of the exchange.
Ryan’s quotes from The Daily Caller end with the statement that the “EPA official’s testimony has generated negative reactions from pro-business advocates who say Stanislaus’s testimony shows the agency is out of touch with reality and is indifferent to job creation.” If you consider Superfund coal ash decontamination projects as instances of job creation then Rep. Gardner is right. The towns of Pines, Ind. and Chesapeake, Va are two such lucky recipients…