“We have to hire plumbers, electricians, painters, folks who do that kind of work when you retrofit a plant. Jobs are created in the process — no question about that.” — Mike Morris, CEO, American Electric Power
What happens when the GOP mantra that environmental regulations kill jobs is proven false? In politics, that usually means doubling down on the original false argument.
Even after losing a bid to roll back EPA’s cross-state air pollution rule last week, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul vowed to keep fighting federal air pollution standards, saying that he would not “let this administration continue to pass job-killing regulations.”
But those regulations aren’t killing jobs. And as we’ve pointed out several times, strong, well-designed environmental regulations have never killed jobs. The entire anti-environmental regulation platform of the Republican party is based on a made up scenario that has somehow trumped reality.
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.
What about coming EPA regulation of mercury and carbon emissions? Won’t that cause a “train wreck” that will kill tens of thousands of jobs? Well, estimates vary on the precise jobs impact. One report from the University of Massachusetts estimates that more than 250,000 jobs will be created through installation of new equipment at existing power plants and construction of new clean energy facilities.
Net job creation is a bit harder to gauge, as there will be jobs lost in some areas of the industry in a shift away from coal to natural gas and renewables. But leading power providers are contradicting GOP “job-killing” talking points by explaining that new air-quality regulations will have an overall positive impact on job creation. The Washington Post just ran a piece on the impact of EPA rules:
AEP chief executive Mike Morris said that retrofitting plants would add jobs but that he needs more time from the EPA. [Note: These regulations have been in the works for a decade.]
“We have to hire plumbers, electricians, painters, folks who do that kind of work when you retrofit a plant,” Morris said. “Jobs are created in the process — no question about that.”
Another AEP coal plant in nearby Conesville required more than 1,000 temporary workers to build a scrubber for one of its units. The plant then added 40 full-time employees to monitor the scrubber, which doubled the footprint of the unit. The device requires so much machinery it has its own control room.
Ralph Izzo, chief executive of the New Jersey utility PSE&G, said installing scrubbers at two of his company’s coal plants created 1,600 jobs for two years, plus 24 permanent ones.
This has been the story of how industry responds to regulations. Since the founding of the EPA in the 1970’s, aggregate emissions of ozone, particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and lead have come down 63%. The economic impact? A tripling of Gross Domestic Product.
The Washington Post story points to a 1998 study on the net impact of EPA regulations on major industries:
“Based on the available literature, there’s not much evidence that EPA regulations are causing major job losses or major job gains,” said Richard Morgenstern, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan think tank Resources for the Future who worked at the EPA starting under the Reagan administration and continuing into President Bill Clinton’s first term.
A decade ago, in a landmark study, Morgenstern and others looked at the effect of regulations on four heavily polluting industries — pulp and paper mills, plastic manufacturers, petroleum refiners, and iron and steel mills — between 1979 and 1991.
The researchers concluded that higher spending to comply with environment rules does not cause “a significant change” in industry employment. When jobs were lost, they were often made up elsewhere in the same industry. For every $1 million companies spent, as many as 11 / 2 net jobs were added to the economy.
Despite these historical facts, Republicans continue to claim that environmental regulations are killing jobs. This is egregiously false.
If we’re serious about transitioning away from coal in order to clean up local air pollution, improve public health and combat climate change, there will be job impacts in the coal industry. That’s a fact. And we need to be prepared to transition workers in the sector to new types of jobs.
But we will see major job gains in other sectors on the industry, creating a net-neutral or, possibly, substantial net-positive jobs impact — all while reaping the economic benefits in public health and investment in cleaner generation. That’s a fact, too.
It’s time to stop the nonsensical claims that strong environmental regulations kill jobs. As Republican candidates continue to campaign on this platform, we need to hold them accountable for their distortions.