Environmental goals are job creators

Posted by Christine, January 29, 2012

The East Bay Express figures out the jobs picture:

During a Republican presidential primary debate last June, Michele Bachmann lit into the Environmental Protection Agency, recommending it be renamed the “job-killing organization of America.” Her fellow contenders nodded in agreement, each explaining how shutting down the EPA, or at least instituting a moratorium on regulations, would be a priority in their White House.

The GOP’s desire to kill America’s chief environmental regulator hasn’t just been grist for the bizarre sideshow that is the Republican Party’s presidential primary. Over the past year, Republicans in Congress — in actual positions of power — have succeeded in massively defunding the EPA. In March, no less than nineteen riders were floated on the floor of the House of Representatives to cut the EPA’s budget. Fifteen Republican senators even proposed deleting the EPA as a cabinet-level agency. The harshest of these legislative bombs were diffused, but the cuts that prevailed added up to the largest single year drop in EPA funding since 1981 when President Reagan (“Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do”) began his unprecedented assault on the greens.

Republicans by no means have a monopoly on the “job killer” trope. Moderate, so called-Blue Dog Democratic senators like Jay Rockefeller and Ben Nelson, who hail from states with huge corporate energy interests, have co-sponsored legislation to ditch specific EPA standards. Even President Obama recently reinforced the mythology that environmental regulations are counterproductive to economic development, saying in September that his decision to rescind ozone air-quality standards was essential to the nation’s economic recovery. Both parties also are seriously pursuing environmental deregulation of industry, and cuts to the nation’s major cleanup programs.

The problem with all of this, however, is that California’s economy is now crucially dependent on environmental regulation and remediation. This is especially true in cities where decades of industrial pollution have created an environment not only toxic to human health, but also economic investment.

In fact, cleaning up toxic sites has become a fundamental driver of the Bay Area’s economy. As a result, cutting the EPA’s budget, and possibly reducing funds for the state agency responsible for partnering in cleanup, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), will stall job creation and condemn huge swaths of urban California as economic dead zones.

But the fallacy that environmental laws kill jobs doesn’t end there. According to economists who study the impact of regulation on markets, California’s economy will likely add more jobs and develop new vibrant sectors of activity much faster if politicians embrace ambitious environmental goals. According to this emerging school of thought, environmental regulations aren’t only pivotal for human health and environmental quality, they stimulate innovation, and innovation is the key to California’s economy.

Read the rest here.

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