by Matt Kasper
Here’s another example of why good pollution regulations can be an economic driver and job creator.
While Republicans in Congress continue their disinformation campaign about EPA regulations and Romney’s ‘Bush-era’ energy team plans to roll back pollution rules, Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy in Iowa are celebrating an emission-reduction technology that will help a power plant meet new standards — creating 400 jobs in the process. One recent study found that “EPA’s two new air quality rules create 1.5 million jobs.”
Republican Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham, and CEO of Alliant Energy Pat Kampling recently visited the 726 megawatt coal-fired Ottumwa plant where scrubbing technology will be added to the generating station.
The Ottumwa Courier reported:
“The OGS [Ottumwa Generating Station] project is a win-win for Iowa’s economy and environment,” said Pat Kampling, president and CEO of Alliant Energy. “The project at OGS will create approximately 400 good-paying construction jobs for Iowa’s working families and foster future economic growth while making Iowa’s air cleaner.”
Gov. Terry Branstad called the project “a long-term investment in Iowa’s economy and environment.”
The $345 million investment in the power plant will reduce yearly mercury emissions from 150 pounds to 15 pounds and cut 4,900 tons of SO2 pollution.
Alliant Energy says it has plans of investing more than a billion dollars over the next five years in Iowa power plants. This is great news for public health: according to 2010 estimates from the Clean Air Task Force Iowa power plants’ toxic emissions cause 151 deaths and 250 heart attacks annually.
These investments will not only clean the air and save lives, but also create direct and indirect jobs.
Unfortunately, MidAmerican Energy – the other utility that co-owns the plant in Ottumwa – wants to delay rules for air toxics that apply to their coal-fired power plants. In testimony last year, MidAmerican claimed having to comply with EPA regulations could lead to shortages of equipment and labor to install the pollution reduction technology. This claim was debunked in 2010 by the Institute of Clean Air Companies.
MidAmerican Energy also has two of the most deadly coal plants in America, according to a report from Environmental Integrity. Combined, the George Neal South and Walter Scott Jr. Energy Center plants released over 30,000 tons of SO2 and 12,000 tons of NOx last year, resulting in over 80 premature deaths.
Even with the clear benefits of installing pollution equipment, Republicans in Congress have been critical of regulations for power plants that improve public health and combat climate change. Committees of the 112th House of Representatives convened twenty hearings in its first twenty days to try to claim that regulations are killing jobs.
In fact, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that regulations are having virtually no impact on job losses. In 2010, only 0.3% of job losses occurred because of government regulation, according to the figures.
Strong, well-designed environmental regulations have never killed jobs. A 2011 report from the University of Massachusetts estimates:
Investments driven by EPA’s two new air quality rules create 1.5 million jobs, or nearly 300,000 jobs a year on average over the next five years…
Since 1970, investments to comply with the Clean Air Act provided $4 to $8 in economic benefits for every $1 spent on compliance, according to the nonpartisan Office of Management and Budget.
Since the passage of the Clean Air Act Amendments in 1990, U.S. average electricity rates (real) have remained flat even as electric utilities have invested hundreds of billions of dollars to cut their air pollution emissions.
It is time to stop the erroneous claims that strong environmental regulations kill jobs. The EPA regulations on power plants create jobs, spur economic investment from private companies, and save the lives of Americans.
Matt Kasper is a special assistant for energy policy at the Center for American Progress.
Mid American has responded to this post:
“MidAmerican Energy has made and is continuing to make significant investments to enhance its ability to reduce emissions through new environmental control technologies. At year-end 2010, the company’s environmental compliance costs had exceeded $425 million. These expenditures were made in order to be compliant with existing and expected U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.”
“MidAmerican Energy continues to explore ways to meet the electricity needs of its customers for years to come, taking into consideration both potential closures of some existing generation facilities and increasing demand for electricity to fuel Iowa’s economy. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is pursuing a series of regulations that cumulatively could result in making it infeasible or at least uneconomical to continue operation of some coal-fueled generation, which is why MidAmerican Energy is preparing for the future. The development of additional wind projects has been key to the company’s future generation plan.”