Analysis of Pennsylvania’s Coal Refuse Industry

ESI was retained by Anthracite Region Independent Power Producers Association (ARIPPA) on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to evaluate the current economic and environmental impacts of the proposed coal-refuse-to-energy plants located throughout the rural areas of Pennsylvania.

In the 1980’s a new technology allowed the coal industry to address its long-term environmental challenge by utilizing the coal refuse and waste byproducts to produce and sell energy. This fuel cycle approach changed the economic structure of the coal refuse industry, the new model allowed Pennsylvania’s coal-refuse-to-energy plants to generate revenue, created long-term jobs, eliminated costs for the disposal of unused coal refuse. However, recent marketplace and regulatory challenges are threatening coal refuse-fired plants from delivering these economic, environmental and community benefits.

ESI found that over 2 decades of operation, Pennsylvania’s coal-refuse-to-energy plants have been able to remove and use more than 200 million tons of coal refuse and have improved or restored more than 1,200 miles of polluted streams and reclaimed more than 7,000 acres of land throughout the Commonwealth. The restoration and reclamation of coal refuse infected areas have saved the Commonwealth, and its citizens, millions of tax payer dollars in cleanup costs.

ESI also found that the coal refuse industry also provides a major source of economic activity and employment across the fuel cycle within the Commonwealth. At historic operating levels, the industry generates an annual economic impact of nearly $740 million. This activity directly and indirectly supports 3,600 jobs, with total earnings of more than $220 million.

The report also highlighted the anchor role that the coal refuse industry plays in the rural communities of Pennsylvania’s coal regions. Plants provide a major hub of employment activity, they serve as major contributors to the local tax base, make significant investments in the community and improve residents’ quality of life.

ESI concluded the Commonwealth cannot provide the environmental benefits, public benefits, economic benefits, and community benefits provided by the industry’s comprehensive fuel cycle.

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