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Chesapeake News and Events

Report Debunks Environmental "Job Killer" Myth

Scrubber with Melissa SampsonA new report dismantles claims that environmental regulations are “job killers,” and describes how new pollution limits for the nation’s largest estuary could create about 240,000 jobs across the region in sewage plant improvements and the construction of stormwater pollution control systems.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation report, “Debunking the ‘Job Killer’ Myth: How Pollution Limits Encourage Jobs in the Chesapeake Bay Region,” uses federal employment data and the published conclusions of respected economists to rip a hole in an argument against new Bay pollution limits (the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load).

One example from the report that was mentioned during the press conference this morning at the Brandon Shores power plant in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, involved a nearly $1 billion air pollution control device called a scrubber (pictured above).  

Opponents of a 2006 law called the Maryland Healthy Air Act argued that requiring scrubbers at coal-fired power plants would shut down power plants, destroy jobs, jack up electricity rates, and cause rolling blackouts across the state. In fact, none of these dire predictions were caused by the legislation. After the act passed, Constellation Energy actually increased its employment at the power plant by about 25 percent, adding 32 workers in part to run and monitor the scrubbers (including the hiring of chemical technician Melissa Sampson, shown above left).

Looking forward, claims that Chesapeake Bay pollution limits will hurt the region's economy will likely prove as untrue as the hyperbole about the Maryland Healthy Air Act.

Job killer press conference. Will Baker and Pelton"If history is any guide, regulations that reduce pollution will create jobs, strengthen local economies, and restore the health of our national treasure," said Chesapeake Bay Foundation President Will Baker (left), during the press conference at Brandon Shores with the report's author, CBF Senior Writer and Investigative Reporter Tom Pelton (right).

Fictional claims about environmental regulations destroying businesses have been repeated over and over since major clean water and air laws were passed in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s. And these horror stories continue to be cynically trotted out in the U.S. House of Representatives today as anti-regulatory activists try to undermine environmental protections in general (including the Chesapeake Bay pollution limits) and attack the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The factual record shows this rhetoric is crying wolf.

“Virtually all economists who have studied the jobs-environment issue agree.... There has simply been no trade-offs between jobs and the environment,” wrote Dr. Eban Goodstein, Director of the Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College, who is quoted in the CBF report.

For example, in 1976, Henry Ford II warned that clean air and fuel-efficiency standards would “shut down” the Ford Motor Company.  Thirty-five years later, Ford not only remains in business, it ranked number 10 on the Fortune 500 list in 2010, earning $6.5 billion in profits that year.  And instead of being put out of business by clean air rules, Ford now markets zero-emission electric cars, according to the CBF report.

Critics of 1990 federal Clean Air Act Amendments claimed that tighter air pollution limits would mean “a quiet death for businesses across the country.”  These gloomy forecasts did not come true, and President George W. Bush’s administration in the end concluded that the stronger air pollution law  produced more than $70 billion in health benefits annually and a 40-to-1 benefits to cost ratio.

More locally in the Chesapeake Bay region, critics of a 1985 ban on phosphates in laundry detergent and a 2006 air pollution control law asserted that these environmental laws would variously destroy jobs, hurt human health or shut down power plants and cause blackouts.  The historical record shows that these claims were false, false, false, and false.

The cries over the new pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay are variations on the same old song.

Among the potential areas for job growth that are outlined in the CBF report:

• As many as 178,000 full-time equivalent jobs across the region over the next five years building stormwater pollution control projects.

• About 60,000 construction jobs improving sewage treatment plants in Maryland and Virginia.

• In Virginia alone, nearly 12,000 jobs could be created building runoff control projects on farms if the Commonwealth and federal government provide sufficient funding.

For details on the sources for these numbers, and human interest stories about unemployed people across the region put back to work by clean water projects, read the full report here

By Tom Pelton

Chesapeake Bay Foundation


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