Repairing the Damage: Cleaning Up Hazardous Coal Ash Can Create Jobs and Improve the Environment

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In partnership with ReImagine Appalachia and Union of Concerned Scientists, the Ohio River Valley Institute is releasing a new report titled: Repairing the Damage: Cleaning up Hazardous Coal Ash Can Create Jobs and Improve the Environment. This report is the fourth in our Repairing the Damage series focusing on how we can create jobs by cleaning up our region’s environmental burdens. 

After powering America for over a century, Appalachia is seeing devastating impacts from our global energy shift away from fossil fuels. In less than a decade, the Ohio Valley Region, including Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, has lost 25,000 coal mining jobs and nearly 13,000 oil and gas jobs. In the Ohio Valley alone, 34 coal-burning facilities closed from 2009 to 2017. This staggering industry decline has not only hurt families, but had ripple effects across communities, forcing schools to close and a loss of essential services in places hardest hit.

In addition to economic impacts, coal fired power plants leave behind coal ash, one of the largest waste streams in the US. There are over 160 coal ash disposal sites in the Ohio Valley, and many of these toxic sites are located along major rivers and pose risks to public health and the environment. 

However, if done correctly with strong worker safety protections, cleaning up these sites can create jobs and increase the potential for redevelopment of closing coal plants. Pollution clean up is essential to ensuring these areas are places where people can safely live and work. 


Ted Boettner

Ted focuses on pathways that bring sustainable economic development and shared prosperity to the region through research and analysis and has over 15 years of public policy experience. Prior to joining ORVI, Ted was the founding executive director of the WV Center on Budget and Policy.