Protecting the Clean Air Act: Better Health, More Jobs
Contrary to claims by big polluters and their friends in Congress, a new study from the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) brings good news: strengthening the Clean Air Act will improve public health, the environment, and the economy.
Sponsored by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, the report evaluates job impacts under two Clean Air Act rules expected to be finalized in 2011, the Clean Air Transport Rule and the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Utility Boilers. The standards would reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, lead, dioxin, and arsenic emissions, reducing deaths, chronic bronchitis and asthma, and permanent impairments to brain functioning in children.
In addition to these critical health benefits, the study finds that the two pollution reduction standards will mobilize almost $200 billion in capital improvements in the power sector, creating an estimated 1.4 million jobs, or about 290,000 jobs per year on average in each of the next five years. This includes over $94 billion in pollution controls and over $100 billion in new generation capacity. Constructing such new capacity and producing and installing pollution controls will create a wide array of skilled, high-paying jobs, including engineers, project managers, electricians, boilermakers, pipefitters, millwrights and iron workers.
The study focuses on 36 states affected by the rules, largely situated in the Eastern and Midwestern regions of the United States. While all states gain, with the biggest job gains in Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois, North Carolina and Indiana.
Approximately 98.5% of the job gains will come from capital investments in pollution control and new generation, with the remaining 1.5% from operation and maintenance (O&M).
The study makes a strong case for economic growth from environmental regulation, though it should be noted that some job losses are expected due to retirement of some coal generation: many of the new O&M job gains will be offset by O&M job losses in coal generation. Some of the O&M workers formerly employed in coal fired plants will not be the same workers hired for the new generation. It is therefore critical that policy makers provide transition assistance to any displaced workers.
It is also important to note that a number of benefits besides employment gains were not examined in the study, including better public health, a more productive workforce, and increased competitiveness from developing innovative technologies. Further, increased employment during in our currently depressed economy will benefit severely stressed state budgets through increased payroll taxes and reduced unemployment benefit costs.
The bottom line
Contrary to what polluters and the politicians they’ve bought off want you to believe, the trade off is not between “job killing EPA regulations” and environmental protection. It’s between letting polluters profit at the expense of your health and the environment, and a healthier and more productive economy.
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