News Feature | July 7, 2014

Michigan Passes Beneficial Reuse Laws

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Michigan approved legislation this June aimed at promoting the reuse of industrial byproducts created by coal-burning facilities.

One goal of so-called "beneficial reuse" is to minimize the storage of toxic materials that pose a risk of harming the environment in disasters such as the coal ash spill in North Carolina's Dan River this year. 

"Various amendments to Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA) facilitate the beneficial reuses [of byproducts] by excluding them from the definition of 'solid waste' and exempting these materials from water resources permitting and contaminated property remediation requirements," according to an analysis by Barnes & Thornburg attorneys published on the National Law Review

Coal-burning plants create ash that can be dangerous to the environment. 

"Depending on whom you talk to, coal ash is either an environmental scourge or a beneficial waste product created during the burning of coal.  So reducing the amount of such materials through reuse seems like a good idea, if it can be done safely," 

Crain's Detroit Business reported.  

The bills will pave the way for creative uses of coal ash. 

"These uses include construction fill, fertilizers, building materials (like drywall) and cover at landfills.  People have used these types of industrial wastes for decades in a variety of ways, reducing the amount that ends up in landfills, lowering the cost of construction of roads and developments, and reducing the need for virgin materials.  The most plentiful of these materials is likely to be ash from coal-fired plants," the report said. 

The new law prompted concerns for environmental safety. In particular, expanding the use of coal ash in road constructed had "opponents concerned about potential environmental contamination and subsequent liability," Midwest Energy News reported. 

For more policy news, check out Water Online's Regulations and Legislation Solution Center

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