Sunday, June 21, 2009

Coal costs Appalachia more in early deaths than it provides in economic benefits, researchers say

"The human cost of the Appalachian coal mining economy outweighs its economic benefits," Michael Henrdryx of West Virginia University and Melissa Ahern of Washington State University in Spokane conclude in a study reported in Charleston, W.Va.'s Sunday Gazette-Mail. Reporter Ken Ward Jr. gives the bottom line: "Coal mining costs Appalachians five times more in early deaths as the industry provides to the region in jobs, taxes and other economic benefits."

The study, "Mortality in Appalachian Coal Mining Regions: The Value of Statistical Life Lost," is published in the July-August issue of Public Health Reports, a subscription-only journal of the U.S. Public Health Service and posted online by Ward with the journal's permission. It is "far from a complete cost-benefit analysis of the coal industry, the authors report. But, the things it leaves out, they say, are mostly costs that they haven't been able to completely account for yet," Ward writes.

The study "tries to do what a lot of political conservatives and folks in the coal industry say needs to be done: Weigh coal’s costs and benefits against each other when considering government policies that would impact the industry," Ward writes on his Coal Tattoo blog. "You have to kind of wonder why more research like this hasn’t been done across the Appalachian region."

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