Economic Impact Analysis Report for the Sustainability Evaluation of EPA Portland Harbor Superfund Site Remedial Alternatives

06 September 2016
By Dr. David Harrison Jr. and Conor Coughlin

NERA Senior Vice President Dr. David Harrison and Analyst Conor Coughlin are the two principal authors of an Economic Impact Analysis Report prepared for the Portland Harbor Sustainability Project (PHSP). The NERA report is part of a larger sustainability evaluation—based on environmental, economic and social “pillars”—of the remedial alternatives proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the Portland Harbor Superfund Site, one of the “mega-sediment” sites in the United States. (The Executive Summary of the Sustainability Evaluation, for which Dr. Harrison and Mr. Coughlin are co-authors, is also available for download.) EPA identified nine alternatives for the Portland site with costs of up to about $9 billion and construction durations of potentially more than 19 years.

NERA prepared a detailed report evaluating the impacts of EPA’s remedial alternatives on economic activity in the Portland metropolitan area, a major concern of many stakeholders. Two prior studies yielded contradicting results, with one finding positive impacts (based on remediation expenditures), and the other finding negative impacts (based on financing considerations). The NERA team used detailed expenditure and financing information and a state-of-the-art regional economic model to develop estimates of the net economic impacts of EPA’s alternatives over 31 years, taking into account both positive and negative effects. The study found that all remedial alternatives would result in net job losses and other negative impacts to the Portland regional economy, a result that reconciles the findings of prior studies. The size of the negative impacts varies greatly, however, with the losses substantially greater for the most costly remedial alternatives.

The final PHSP study—including NERA’s detailed Economic Impact Analysis Report along with reports for the other “pillars” and an overall Executive Summary—was submitted to EPA in September 2016 as part of public comments on EPA’s alternatives. The overall effort is being presented at various conferences and workshops as a significant step forward in developing an interdisciplinary sustainability framework that can be used as a tool to inform environmental decision-making for complex sediment remedies.