by Michael Conathan
If rhetoric from the Republican Presidential candidates is to be believed, the Environmental Protection Agency is “a tool to crush the private enterprise system” (Mitt Romney), “a cemetery for jobs” (Rick Perry), and “should be re-named the job-killing organization of America” (Michele Bachmann). But it’s a safe bet the tens of thousands of people who may soon find jobs implementing EPA regulations aimed at cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay would disagree with those assertions.
A new report released today by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation highlights the job creation numbers — 240,000 full-time jobs — expected to come from achieving new pollution goals set by the EPA’s “Total Maximum Daily Load” restrictions. Finalized in December 2010, these rules require a 25 percent reduction of pollution flowing into the Bay by 2025 and have already spurred state and federal investment in stormwater mitigation projects, upgrades at sewage treatment facilities, addition of power plant smokestack scrubbers, and improvements to management of agricultural runoff and livestock waste management.
The Bay’s watershed covers more than 64,000 square miles including all of Maryland and the District of Colombia, large areas of Virginia and Pennsylvania, and portions of Delaware, New York, and West Virginia. Therefore infrastructure projects to reduce pollution will encompass a massive region and provide a major boost to the economy.
Of course, the clock is already ticking on a newly minted, 60 day, congressional mandate for the President to issue a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would carry dirty Canadian tar sands oil from the great white north across America’s heartland and endanger a critical aquifer. By setting up what one former pipeline inspector called a potential “disaster,” the pipeline would ultimately deliver massive quantities of oil to the Gulf Coast only to see the vast majority of it exported.
Keystone proponents, including House Speaker John Boehner, have asserted that the project would immediately create “tens of thousands” of American jobs. These claims seem just a tad hyperbolic now that the oil company itself has conceded that the actual number of jobs that would be created is closer to 6,000 to 6,500, and would only last for two years.
Meanwhile, the jobs spawned by coastal restoration and pollution reduction projects in the Chesapeake are already here, and they are permanent. According to the Foundation’s report, environmental clean-up and monitoring jobs have increased by 43 percent — 42,000 jobs — over the last two decades in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia alone. Montgomery County, MD has begun work on a stormwater pollution control project that will create 3,300 jobs in that county alone. And these numbers don’t begin to account for the increase in employment opportunities and revenue for small businesses that depend on a healthy coastal ecosystem, from tourism to commercial and recreational fishing and aquaculture.
This is yet another example of how strong environmental standards can create new employment opportunities. This is the type of strategy we need – cleaning up pollution, increasing efficiency, developing renewable energy – that will make this country stronger.
When they talk about the EPA, Republicans use the term “job-killing” with great frequency. As Iñigo Montoya famously said to Vizzini in The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”
Michael Conathan is Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress.