EIP: Flawed EPA Analysis Seen as Blocking Tougher Coal Ash Rule Overstates Value of Coal Ash Recycling By More Than 20 Times

December 29, 2010

Two years after the Kingston, TN coal ash spill, federal action to regulate coal ash dumps is being held up by concerns that stricter standards would depress markets for coal-ash recycling. “Cost-benefit” analysis estimates prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claim that coal ash recycling is worth more than $23 billion a year, based on the annual life-cycle benefits of avoiding pollution and reducing energy costs. But there’s just one problem: That estimate is more than 20 times higher than the $1.15 billion that the U.S. government’s own data shows is the correct bottom-line number, according to a review conducted by the independent and nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), Earthjustice, and the Stockholm Environment Institute’s U.S. Center (based at Tufts University).

The deep flaws in the EPA cost-benefit analysis appear to have escaped scrutiny at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which required EPA to include a weaker coal-ash proposal favored by utilities and some coal ash recyclers. Common sense and past experience indicate that stricter standards for disposal will work to increase, rather than decrease, recycling. But either way, EPA ought not to be intimidated into adopting weak rules based on grossly inflated values for coal ash recycling, the three groups said.

For “Re-evaluation of Estimates in US EPA Regulatory Impact Analysis,” Environmental Integrity Project, click, click here.

For testimony of Frank Ackerman, click here.

For the December 29, 2010 news release, click here.

For the December 29, 2010 streaming audio file of news event, click here (after 4 p.m. EST on 12/29/10).