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H.R. 1119 (115th): SENSE Act


H.R. 1119 addresses the application of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) rule, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, issued pursuant to section 112 of the Clean Air Act, to electric generating units that utilize coal refuse to generate electricity. The bill would provide for limited modifications with respect to the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule for these coal refuse facilities by providing for alternative compliance options with respect to sulfur dioxide and hydrogen chloride emissions standards.

According to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, this legislation seeks to ensure that facilities that use coal refuse as fuel can continue to operate and will not be forced to shut down, due to unachievable requirements included in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). Coal refuse is the aboveground waste product of coal mining found near many abandoned mines. Coal refuse piles pose a number of environmental and safety threats and create significant costs for government and industry.

Coal refuse-to-energy facilities are specialized power plants developed to recycle the coal refuse by using it as an energy source to generate electricity. There are 19 coal refuse-to-energy facilities, including 14 in Pennsylvania. In addition to creating an estimated 3,600 jobs, many of which are in economically distressed communities, these facilities create an average of $26 million per year in environmental value for the State of Pennsylvania alone.

Some have suggested that coal refuse-to-energy facilities can meet the requirements of the MATS rule, citing the District of Columbia Court of Appeals decision in White Stallion v. Environmental Protection Agency. In that case, the agency had the authority to create a separate subcategory for coal refuse plants, but declined to do so in part because there were some such plants that could achieve the HCL and SO2 standards in the MATS rule. Notwithstanding the court’s holding that EPA had acted within its discretion, Mr. Vincent Brisini testified earlier this year on behalf of the Anthracite Region Independent Power Producers Association (ARIPPA) at the Subcommittee on Energy’s September 13, 2017 hearing that a number of bituminous coal refuse fired units cannot meet the MATS rule’s acid gas limits and face a threat of imminent closure absent passage of H.R. 1119.

Last updated Mar 6, 2018. Source: Republican Policy Committee

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Mar 8, 2018.


(This measure has not been amended since it was reported to the House on January 12, 2018. The summary of that version is repeated here.)

Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment Act or the SENSE Act

(Sec. 2) This bill eases emission limits for hazardous air pollutants from electric utility steam generating units (electric power plants) that convert coal refuse into energy. The Environmental Protection Agency must allow utilities to select a standard for either hydrogen chloride or sulfur dioxide with which to comply from a list of specified standards.