... the decision-maker implicitly chooses the benefit number. The Duke Energy coal ash pit issue is still in the news. At the end of an article titled "DENR rejects Duke's coal ash plan, amid accusations of leniency" comes this:
The company’s “comprehensive ash basin plan” takes up all of one single-spaced page.
In that summary, Duke said it plans to remove ash from three sites – Dan River, Riverbend and Asheville – and place the waste into modern, lined landfills where it will be stored in dry form. Riverbend will take the longest to complete, up to 4-1/2 years.
The company has not decided what to do with its other 11 sites, whether the ash will be dug out and moved to lined landfills or whether it will be dried, capped and stored in existing ash pits.
Duke also said it would use a “risk-informed” analysis, which means that the 14 ash storage sites will be scored on their potential environmental risk, and those with lower scores will be subject to less costly measures.
This is a sort of benefit-cost analysis where, instead of comparing projects with similar benefits and choosing the least costly alternative as in cost-effectiveness, the projects are ranked in terms of non-monetized benefits (i.e., risks avoided) and more effective remedies are pursued for those at the top. But this seems clunky since the thresholds for less effective remedies doesn't seem clear. Monetizing the benefits would provide a clear threshold, negative net benefits, for moving to less costly remedies.
I can see a number of reasons why Duke Energy doesn't want to monetize the benefits (other than it is costly to monetize benefits ... yet, I can imagine having a reasonable first approximation benefit estimate at each of the 14 sites in less than a week). Foremost might be that the benefits of cleanup at all 14 coal ash pits might justify the most costly remedy.