coal ash

SPRINGFIELD – To continue efforts to protect Illinois communities from toxic coal ash pollution, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) addressed unresolved issues with the legislation passed in the spring.

Senator Bennett passed legislation to keep coal ash out of our water earlier this year. This new law directs the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to begin a rule-making process to require power plant operators to safely dispose of coal ash or ensure that pits are properly enclosed, impose fees on coal ash pits to pay the costs of hiring IEPA staff to oversee enforcement, and require power plant operators to set aside money to pay for cleaning up pits in the event a plant is shut down or a company goes bankrupt.

“The bill itself was about being proactive for our future generations,” Bennett said. “It provides the protections, regulations and financial assurances to prevent coal ash crises from happening in Illinois.”

Numerous negotiations took place between labor and industry, as well as the IEPA and environmental organizations. It was agreed that a trailer bill would be introduced to address some lingering issues with the bill regarding insurance and training provisions. This trailer bill indicates who is responsible for conducting cleanup in the event of a coal ash spill – and how those involved in cleanup will be protected from exposure to toxic chemicals.

“The thing that concerned me about the original coal ash bill was that there were no protections in place for clean-up crews,” Bennett said. “The improvements to this bill will create a training program that includes instruction in the operation of heavy equipment and excavation, ensuring safety for those doing the physical clean-up of the toxic sites.”

Under this measure, more insurance options are available for those that maintain the coal ash pits to allow for coal ash plants. In addition to the insurance option, a trust fund, surety bond guaranteeing payment or performance, an irrevocable letter of credit or insurance that is not self-insurance are also acceptable forms of finance assurance.

The trailer bill is Senate Bill 671, and passed the Senate 39-12-1 Thursday. The legislation moves to the House for consideration.