Image: Lee Cannon via flickr
The EPA has been considering stricter regulations of coal ash, the toxic solid waste from coal power plants that the public was largely unaware of before the 2008 TVA spill in Kingston, Tennessee. One of the EPA's proposals would treat coal ash as hazardous waste, while the other proposal would continue to treat it as not much different than regular solid waste, despite that it contains high levels of things like arsenic and mercury.
The industry has been saying stricter regulations could cause more than 300,000 jobs to be eliminated. A new study out says not only is that estimate incorrect, but that regulations could actually create nearly 30,000 new jobs.The Stockholm Environment Institute-U.S. Center at Tufts University, which released the report, says the industry calculation of job loss is based primarily on a one-percent increase in electricity prices, which in turn is based on incorrect use of an estimate in an unpublished academic paper.
The report's author used an industry estimate of how much stricter regulations would cost to implement—an estimate the author says is much higher than the EPA's—and found a much different outcome than what industry has been saying:
The analysis shows that new spending required for compliance with strict regulation of coal ash, including expenditures for waste management, wastewater treatment, and construction and operation of facilities and equipment, combined with the effects of the resulting electricity rate increases, would result in a net gain of 28,000 jobs.
Lisa Evans, an attorney with Earthjustice, which has been active in advocating for stricter coal ash regulations, said that the report "confirms what we've known all along: regulating coal ash is not only good for the environment, it's good for the economy."
As the U.S. House of Representatives considers legislation this week that would eviscerate the EPA's ability to set the first-ever federal regulations for coal ash disposal, I hope they take a moment to read this important study and recognize that what America wants right now are not partisan ideological attacks, but smart, reasonable protections for our health and environment. Federal coal ash regulations are just the type of action that will get us back onto a prosperous path.
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More about coal ash and EPA
EPA Opens Public Comment Period on Coal Ash. What Happens If It's Not Regulated as Hazardous Waste?
Which Senators Refuse to Let Coal Ash Be Regulated as Hazardous Waste?
600 Coal Ash Dump Sites Found in 35 States: Is There One Near You?
EPA Claiming Coal Ash Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Two Years After the Tennessee Spill, Coal Ash Still Pollutes Nationwide