coal ashSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) continued his years-long effort to protect Illinois communities from toxic coal ash pollution by passing legislation through the Senate Saturday to ensure only trained employees work on coal ash removal projects.

“Coal ash, the toxic byproduct of burning coal in a power plant, is extremely dangerous and creates challenges for communities who want to reuse former coal plant sites or attract new businesses,” Bennett said. “Proper cleanup is essential to correcting coal's toxic footprint in Illinois.”

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.

“We have a responsibility to ensure workers who operate CCR surface impoundments are well-trained for the job,” Bennett said. “It’s my hope that this training will reduce the likelihood of the environmental accidents that can occur with CCR 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.

“What we’ve learned over the course of two years is that coal ash is not just an environmental issue, but a health and economic issue,” Bennett said. “Providing additional protections, regulations and financial assurances will help us to prevent coal ash crises from happening in Illinois.” 

House Bill 3783 passed the Senate with a vote of 59-0.

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