Congressman Bobby Rush

Representing the 1st District of Illinois

Rush Floor Statement Opposing Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 4348, MAP-21

Jun 20, 2012
Press Release

CONTACT: Renee Ferguson
(773) 224-6500 ofc.; (202) 674-0891 mobile

WASHINGTON — Congressman Rush spoke today in opposition to the Republican Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 4348, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).  The text of his statement is below:

“Mr. Speaker, I stand in strong opposition to the Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 4348.

Mr. Speaker, at a time when we are facing historic levels of joblessness in the African-American and other communities, Republicans are playing chicken with the transportation bill, which is intended to provide American jobs and repair our aging infrastructure, not contaminate American communities.

This motion to instruct contains a dangerous provision that will allow more poison, disease, and death from one of our nation’s biggest waste products: coal ash.

Coal ash is the waste leftover after thousands of tons of coal are burned at coal-fired power plants and it is laden with toxins, such as mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead.

These are pollutants that can cause cancer, organ disease, breathing problems, neurological damage, developmental problems and even death.

Mr. Speaker, Title V of H.R. 4348 gives companies an unprecedented ability to pollute under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, even though EPA found some coal ash ponds pose a one in 50 risk of cancer related to residents drinking arsenic‐contaminated water — a risk 2000 times EPA’s regulatory goal.

Dangerous coal ash disposal affects thousands of U.S. communities, but research informs us that income and race remain strong predictors of the amount of pollution that Americans face.

The majority of coal ash is disposed in grossly inadequate dumpsites, which are often located in low-income communities, disproportionately impacting those who are least equipped to respond to water contamination and the onslaught of toxic dust.

Mr. Speaker, low-income citizens are more likely to rely on groundwater supplies and less likely to have access to medical insurance and healthcare.

Yet, Title V of HR 4348 fails to protect communities and their drinking water from toxic coal ash or from another massive spill like the disaster that occurred in Kingston, Tennessee in 2008.

During this catastrophe, a billion gallons of coal ash damaged two dozen homes and destroyed 300 acres when the side of a coal ash dumpsite burst and flooded the nearby countryside.

Yet, Title V protects utility profits by creating a public health loophole and shielding utilities from their responsibility to operate dumps safely and adequately clean up sites that they, themselves, have contaminated.

In fact, EPA and public interest groups have uncovered coal ash contaminating nearby rivers, lakes, streams, aquifers and drinking waters at nearly 200 sites nationwide.

Illinois alone produces more than 4.4 million tons of coal ash annually and at least 19 coal ash dumpsites have contaminated local water supplies.

Additionally, every day it’s in operation, the SS Badger, a coal-fired steamship, dumps four tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan — Chicago’s primary water supply.

Mr. Speaker, I urge all of my colleagues to vote against this Motion to Instruct and put the welfare of the American people before the profits of a few dirty polluters and with that I yield back the balance of my time.”