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Study Says Coal Ash Regulation Could Kill Thousands of Jobs

 The proposed federal regulation of coal ash from electric utility generating units would result in as many as 316,000 lost jobs in the United States, according to an economic analysis released June 15. These job losses, as well as other economic impacts such as electricity price increases will be most severe in the Midwest, which relies on coal to produce most of its electricity.

The job losses are net estimates that include both job losses and gains from the regulation.  The range in these job impact estimates depends on which of the proposed regulatory options the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ultimately adopts. The cost of the proposed options ranges from roughly $23 billion to as much as $110 billion over a 20-year period.

The analysis, “An Economic Assessment of Net Employment Impacts from Regulating Coal Combustion Residuals,” was undertaken by Veritas Economic Consulting on behalf of the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group. USWAG is a consortium of approximately 80 utility operating companies, the Edison Electric Institute, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and the American Public Power Association.

With coal-based generation providing 47 percent of the nation’s electricity, federal regulation of coal ash could increase electricity rates in some regions, restrict the recycling and reuse of coal ash, and eliminate many of the jobs on which ash reuse and recycling depend. Coal ash refers broadly to the residual solid material from the combustion of coal to produce electricity.

EPA is weighing two main approaches to govern the disposal of coal ash under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act: regulating ash under RCRA Subtitle C – the federal program to manage hazardous wastes – and regulating them as non-hazardous waste under RCRA Subtitle D. EPA also has proposed a modification to its Subtitle D option known as “D Prime.”

EPA’s Subtitle C proposal would establish a federal program to regulate CCRs from the point of generation to their final disposition, and would effectively phase out the disposal of coal ash in surface impoundments. The study found that this option would lead to the net loss of 183,900 to 316,000 jobs.

The Subtitle D proposal would establish national criteria for ash landfills and impoundments, including use of liners and groundwater monitoring, and would require closure of facilities unable to meet certain requirements, which would effectively close most CCR surface impoundments. An estimated net 39,000 to 64,700 jobs would be lost under this scenario, the report concluded.

The D Prime option would allow surface impoundments to remain in operation, providing that they also met groundwater monitoring and other requirements.

In addition, the analysis found that the impacts of regulation would not be felt uniformly across the country. The Midwest, which relies heavily on coal to meet its electricity needs, would lose a net of 57,300 to 95,600 jobs if coal ash were regulated under Subtitle C. These estimates include losses from electric generating unit retirements, electricity price increases, losses in the beneficial use industry, and losses in other related industries. The analysis also includes estimates of job gains in sectors associated with coal ash handling and disposal.

The full report is available here. 

Posted by: on: Jul 01, 2011 @ 08:26