Environmental blogs, Fast Company magazine and other sources are reporting the findings of a new report by Harvard University researchers.

That report, written by Dr. Paul Epstein, associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, finds that coal production costs the United States as much as $500 billion each year in hidden health, economic, and environmental impacts.

The report is scheduled to be published in this month’s Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Researchers at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School found that

  • the public health costs in the Appalachian region alone are $75 billion annually:
  • health impacts of air pollution from coal-fired power plants cost $187 billion;
  • impacts of mercury emissions cost $29 billion;
  • greenhouse gas emissions and related climate change effects can reach $206 billion.

In addition, coal mining and combustion leads to billions in “smaller” costs, including land disturbances, environmental cleanups, property value effects, and crop damage, according to the report.

Fast Times notes that the report doesn’t have much good to say about “clean coal”:

The paper isn’t too bullish on carbon capture and storage at coal plants, either, explaining that “in addition to the control technique not altering the upstream life cycle cost–significant obstacles lie in the way, including the costs of construction of suitable plants and underground storage facilities.”

While the study concludes that coal production is an “integral part of our daily lives,” it also carries economic implications that go “far beyond the prices we pay for electricity.” The study said that if these hidden costs were factored into the true cost of electricity, consumers would be paying more than double the current average price of 12 cents per kilowatt hour.

Kentucky is a top coal producing states  along with Wyoming, Montana, West Virginia and Illinois. That said, Kentucky produces only about 6 percent of the coal mined in the U.S.

More on the report:

Coal Costs the U.S. $500 Billion Annually in Health, Economic, Environmental Impacts (Fast Company)

Coal Costs U.S. $500 Billion Per Year: Study (Huffington Post)