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Congresswoman McCollum Stands up for the Great Lakes

July 25, 2013
Statements For the Record

[as prepared]

Mr. Speaker, this is the final amendment to the bill which will not kill the bill or send it back to committee.  If adopted, the bill will immediately proceed to final passage as amended.

This bill is about coal ash.  Coal ash is a toxic substance.  It contains lead, selenium, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic.  Coal ash is a deadly poison and it must be kept out of America’s drinking water. 

This bill needlessly puts millions of Americans at risk by doing nothing to prevent coal ash from contaminating ground water, surface water, and the greatest supply of fresh water on Earth – the Great Lakes.  The Great Lakes provide drinking water to more than 30 million people.   Over 1.5 million jobs are connected to the Great Lakes and more than $60 billion in annual wages. 

My amendment protects the Great Lakes from improper and dangerous storage of coal ash.  This amendment “...requires that all wet disposal structures meet criteria for design, construction, operation, and maintenance sufficient to prevent contamination of surface and ground water.”  This amendment recognizes that the Great Lakes are unique.

Mayors and Governors in eight states are working together to maintain this vital ecosystem and economy for families, businesses, and future generations.  Even while this House considers an 80 percent cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

In addition, the federal government coordinates our efforts to protect, conserve, and restore the Great Lakes with our partner Canada.  The United States has both a national and international interest in keeping these lakes clean and safe. 

Protecting the Great Lakes should be a priority for this Congress.  I am certain that it is a priority for the 30 million people who drink Great Lakes’ water.  But without this amendment, they will be at risk of drinking these cancer causing toxins.

Right now, coal ash is placed into unlined ponds some that are leaking, leaching, and spilling in our soil, lakes, rivers, and aquifers.  In 2011 near Milwaukee, a bluff collapsed sending a utility company’s coal ash directly into Lake Michigan.  Residents could no longer drink their local water because of the severe health threat posed by the coal ash.  Should a utility company be able to store tons and tons of coal ash into an unregulated ravine?  The answer should be no. 

Unless Congress changes how coal ash is stored, the Great Lakes and America’s drinking water will continue to be at risk.  Congress can do something right here, right now by passing my amendment.

  • If you want clean and safe drinking water, vote for this amendment.
  • If you want to protect the Great Lakes, vote for this amendment.
  • If you want to protect recreation, manufacturing, and service jobs, vote for this amendment.
  • If you have the courage to stand up to polluters and say no longer will I allow coal ash to be inadvertently put into our drinking water causing cancer for millions of American, vote for this amendment.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back my time.