SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) advanced legislation through the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee Thursday to continue efforts to protect Illinois communities from toxic coal ash pollution.
“Coal ash, the byproduct of burning coal in a power plant, is extremely hazardous and can leave a lasting impact on the environment, even after a plant has closed,” Bennett said. “It’s important that we take precautions to protect Illinois residents, water sources and wildlife from toxic spills.”
Bennett introduced House Bill 3783 to establish training standards for workers constructing, installing, modifying or closing Coal Combustion Residual (CCR) surface impediments, otherwise known as coal ash pits.
Under Bennett’s plan, anyone working on a coal ash pit would be required to participate in training programs approved by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. The training would cover erosion control and environmental remediation, as well as the operation of heavy equipment and excavation.
“Workers who operate CCR surface impoundments should approach projects well-trained,” Bennett said. “This training will hopefully reduce the likelihood of the environmental accidents that can occur with CCR surface impoundments.”
In 2019, Bennett passed legislation to keep coal ash out of Illinois’ water supply, directing the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to make sure power plant operators safely dispose of coal ash. The legislation made power plant operators responsible for the cost of oversight and required plants to set money aside to pay for coal ash cleanup in the event a plant is shut down or a company goes bankrupt.
Later that year, Bennett introduced follow-up legislation to more clearly define 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.
“These measures are about being proactive for our future generations and working to rectify coal’s toxic footprint in Illinois,” Bennett said. “I’m thrilled to move this legislation forward to provide further protections, regulations and financial assurances to prevent coal ash crises from happening in Illinois.”
House Bill 3783 moves to the Senate floor for further consideration.