McKinley says some states have no solid waste programs to dispose of coal ash, and the need to get rid of it won't disappear.
State regulators are already "handling other products that are far more hazardous than this product,'' he adds, pointing to chemicals, batteries and other "far more difficult issues'' for landfills. McKinley contends they're more prepared to regulate coal ash than the EPA, which proposed doing so in 2010 but has yet to act.
"This is a product that has already been deemed recyclable,'' McKinley told reporters in a conference call this week. "We have to remove the stigma.''
EPA says some elements in coal ash "can pose threats to public health and the environment, if improperly managed.''
At the April hearing, the agency cited dozens of cases in which coal ash had potentially damaged groundwater and surface water supplies, mainly from unlined and unmonitored waste pits.
Legislation must include such things as timelines for the implementation of state programs and criteria for EPA to determine when a state program is deficient, the EPA said. It also must contain rules for waste pits, including deadlines for closing those that are leaking or abandoned.
McKinley's bill has a good chance of passing the Republican-controlled House again, but its prospects in the Democrat-controlled Senate are unclear.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has sponsored Senate versions of the legislation and said Thursday he will support it again because it's "a common-sense way to protect good-paying jobs and our environment.''
But Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said people are understandably worried about safety.
"That tells me we need to find a way to do this cleaner and more carefully,'' he said.
"We need a solution that works for both local communities and industry, protects public health and the environment, and enables the government to act quickly if a dangerous situation arises,'' he said in an email. "I'm hopeful that we can work together on a real bill to address these needs.''