Coal Ash Chronicles

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Study: Regulating coal ash will create thousands of jobs

Here’s an excerpt from the 2011 study from the Stockholm Environment Institute, U.S. Center at Tufts University


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering regulation to protect the public from the health hazards of coal ash disposal. In response, an industry group has claimed that strict regulation of ash disposal could lead to the loss of more than 300,000 jobs. That number is simply unbelievable, on several grounds:

  • The study presenting it provides no explanation for more than 50,000 of the supposedly lost jobs; they result either from unreported assumptions or from errors in calculation.
  • Most of the huge job loss is said to be the result of a one percent increase in electricity prices. The implausibly super-sized response to that small price change rests on a single numerical estimate in an unpublished academic paper, ignoring the cautions and qualifications from the paper’s author about how to interpret his findings.
  • Another group of jobs are said to be at risk due to the guess that regulation of ash disposal would stigmatize and discourage ash recycling (which is exempt from the proposed regulation). Yet products ranging from gasoline to nail polish would be hazardous if disposed of in bulk, but are widely used without stigma.

This report presents a new analysis of employment effects, based on an industry estimate of the costs of regulation that is much higher than the EPA’s cost calculation. The cost estimate I use was, in fact, developed for another industry group by the same consultants who claimed that more than 300,000 jobs would be lost.

Using that industry estimate for the cost of regulation and the well - known IMPLAN model of the U.S. economy, I show that the effect of the new spending required by strict regulation of coal ash, including expenditures for waste management, wastewater treatment, and construction and operation of facilities and equipment, combined with the impact of the resulting electricity rate increases on consumers, would be a net gain of 28,000 jobs.

Job impacts are not the only basis on which to judge new regulatory proposals. The debate should center on the magnitude and importance of the health and environmental benefits that would result, and the reasonableness of the costs of achieving those benefits. The fact that strict regulation of coal ash disposal would create a net increase of 28,000 jobs doesn’t, by itself, clinch the argument for such regulation. But it does free us of the unfounded fear of massive job loss, allowing us to evaluate the regulation on its merits.

Read the entire study, by Frank Ackerman, here.

Filed under coal jobs coal ash clean up stigma industry Tufts University study Frank Ackerman Stockholm Environment Institute

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Conflicting coal ash test results in Fairbanks, Alaska

From The (Fairbanks) Daily Miner:

The Environmental Protection Agency was in Fairbanks last month in response to a citizen petition filed over concerns around the haphazard handling and storage of coal ash. The results from a preliminary site assessment of the Aurora Power Plant in September 2011 have launched a full investigation to determine if the property should be listed on the National Priorities List for superfund sites.

At the request of local residents, a sampling project was conducted in June 2010 by the Alaska Community Action on Toxics. It reported, in “Coal Ash in Alaska: Our Health, Our Right to Know,” that samples of coal ash from local power plants, waste disposal sites and reuse sites were found to contain a range of toxic heavy metals. In almost every case, the level of toxic chemicals were found to be significantly higher than background soils in Fairbanks. Samples from the UAF coal-fired power plant showed arsenic concentrations more than 100 times higher than the standard for residential soils, and mercury was found at 70 times higher than background soils, which is certainly high enough to be a concern if inhaled in the form of windblown dust.

ADEC however, performed a study around the same time that disputed the ACAT report, and Aurora Energy provided their own samples, revealing no detectable levels of toxins.

The discrepancies between the ACAT report, ADEC’s findings and the samples provided by Aurora Energy have only raised more questions and confirmed the need for more comprehensive, reliable and up-to-date information on the composition of Alaska’s coal ash. The EPA was here to do just that — more comprehensive testing to determine if local sources of coal ash are harmful to our health and our environment. Fairbanks residents have the right to know, period.

Read the entire article, by Lissa Hughes, here.

Where dump trucks are loaded with coal ash at the Aurora Energy plant.

Image: Aurora Energy’s coal ash bagging facility at its downtown Fairbanks coal plant where contractor’s dump trucks are filled with coal waste that is hauled away and often used for backfill.

Filed under coal ash coalash coal dust Alaska Fairbanks AK EPA Environmental Protection Agency testing study report contamination Superfund

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Sen. Barrasso’s 10-page report, “Red Tape Making Americans Sick,” goes where no EPA wonk has gone before — into scientific studies of the link between regulation, unemployment and worsening public health.

The report cites a network of scientific sources confirming that unemployment from EPA regulations increases the likelihood of hospital visits, illnesses and premature deaths due to joblessness, thus increasing health care costs and raising questions about the claimed health savings of EPA’s regulations.

Then the senator veered off into what must have been unexpected terrain. He asked, “Has EPA ever done a cumulative impact analysis of all other proposed rules on coal-fired power plants?” He listed several rules, “the cumulative of coal ash, of cooling water intake structures, climate change, cross-state air pollution, as well as mercury reduction?”

McCarthy uncharacteristically stumbled: “We actually have done uh, a … a, our, our analysis, our economic analysis of the [indistinct] cost of state air pollution rules. The other rules that you identified have yet to be finalized.”

Barrasso must have realized he hit a nerve. “But EPA has not done a cumulative analysis?”

"We have not, no."

EPA’s regulatory shell-game harms Americans’ jobs, health — Washington Examiner

Filed under coal coal ash coalash energy electricity EPA regulation health studies Barrasso Red Tape Making Americans Sick study