bennett 042621DANVILLE – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) applauded the signing of legislation aimed to protect Illinois communities from toxic coal ash pollution, ensuring 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 can leave a lasting impact on the environment, even after a plant has closed,” Bennett said. “I thank Governor Pritzker for signing this legislation to reduce coal’s toxic footprint in Illinois.”

Bennett introduced the legislation to establish training standards for workers constructing, installing, modifying or closing Coal Combustion Residual (CCR) surface impediments, otherwise known as coal ash pits.

Under the law, anyone working on a coal ash pit is required to participate in training programs approved by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration. The training covers erosion control and environmental remediation, as well as the operation of heavy equipment and excavation. 

“This new law ensures workers who operate CCR surface impoundments are well-trained to clean up these toxic sites,” Bennett said. “With additional training measures in place, environmental accidents that can occur with CCR impoundments will decrease significantly.”  

In 2019, Bennett passed legislation to keep coal ash out of Illinois’ water supply, directing the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency 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.

“The legislation signed into law today adds to the protections already in place to ensure coal ash cleanup and closure is performed safely,” Bennett said.

The legislation was signed into law Friday and takes effect immediately.