* Recession, environment law has cut cost from 2008
* Researchers say progress will be harder when economy grows
* Industry says regulation adds to competitive pressures
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Nov 25 Air pollution, chiefly from
coal-fired power plants, cost society up to 189 billion euros
($235 billion) in 2012 - equal to the gross domestic product of
Finland, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said in a report
published on Tuesday.
The agency provides research to guide EU policymakers, who
are reconsidering proposals put forward last year by the
European Commission, the EU executive, to tighten laws on air
It analysed the impact of air pollution from industry on
health costs, lost working days, damage to buildings, reduced
agricultural yields and other costs and found the cost was at
least 59 billion euros and up to 189 billion euros in 2012.
The wide range reflects different ways of calculating costs
and compares with estimates of between 79 billion and 251
billion euros in 2008 at the start of the 2008-2012 period
Costs fell as EU environment law and an economic downturn
curbed emissions including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides,
sulphur oxides and particulate matter, but the researchers said
it would be a challenge to maintain progress in reducing
emissions during times of economic growth.
Of the 30 biggest facilities it identified as causing the
most damage, 26 were power plants, mainly fuelled by coal in
Germany and eastern Europe.
At the end of last year, EU policymakers unveiled draft law
to curb air pollution from industry and traffic.
The new Commission, in office since the start of November,
is considering changing or even scrapping the proposed new air
quality law, according to a document seen by Reuters. The
Commission said it had not yet made a decision.
Some industrial sectors say they are struggling to be
competitive and that EU regulation risks driving them out of
The coal sector says it offers a cheap, secure fuel source,
indigenous to many European nations, and that the cost of
switching to alternatives is high.
(1 US dollar = 0.8057 euro)
(editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Jane Baird)