Today the Environmental Protection Agency issued new regulations that will force cuts in pollution—including soot and emissions that cause smog and acid rain—from coal plants. Utilities say the rules will force closures of old power plants and increase the cost of electricity. The EPA counters that it will improve health and create jobs in the pollution control industry.
An analysis by economists at Harvard and MIT finds that reductions in cases of asthma and other diseases could cut health care costs by well over $20 billion a year (up to $300 billion). It notes some factors that will keep down the costs of the regulations: natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal, can provide a relatively inexpensive alternative to the coal plants that will need to be shut down, and that many coal plants can continue to operate after being retrofitted with existing technology to meet the regulations. In the short term, more jobs will be created by these retrofits than will be lost due to plant closures, it says. The authors conclude:
The Transport Rule has undergone a series of such thorough assessments, and the results consistently indicate that it would create benefits that far exceed its costs. Failure to take timely action on this opportunity would seem to be imprudent, if not irresponsible.
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