What do you think...do environmental regulations help or hurt job growth?
Join us today at 12:30 p.m. for a Facebook Wall Chat discussion on CBF's latest investigative report, Debunking the Job Myth: How Pollution Limits Encourage Jobs in the Chesapeake Bay Region. Senior writer and author of the report Tom Pelton will answer your questions and engage in further discussion. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Read the report here for more information: http://www.cbf.org/page.aspx?pid=2794.
In case you missed it...The Wall Chat Recapped:
LIVE CHAT ON JOBS AND ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS. Do environmental regulations really hurt the economy? Or is this just a myth being repeated to derail pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere? Hello, Facebook friends! I am Tom Pelton, senior writer for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and author of the report "Debunking the Job Killer Myth" linked above. Give me your thoughts and questions on this hotly-debated subject, and I will be glad to answer then in real time.
CBF: The subject attracted a lot of heated comments -- both pro and con -- yesterday on our Facebook page. There is a huge gap between the rhetoric about an alleged "tidal wave" of new environmental regulations, and the reality -- with government data showing no surge in regulations, and regulations causing no net loss of jobs to the economy. Why does this subject make so many people angry?
William: In this time of a stagent economic recovery, why should there be further environmental regulations? How could further environmental regulations help the overall economic recovery and job growth?
CBF: Thanks for the question, William. Economist Dr. Eban Goodstein and others have concluded that, during economic downturns, spending money on environmental projects, like fixing up sewage plants and building stormwater pollution control projects, can actually create jobs by putting people to work on enterprises that improve the public health. Our report estimated that more than 178,000 construction jobs could be created in the Bay region on stormwater system improvements alone. Tom Pelton
Jim: i understand regulation is important from an environmental point of view but i can't wrap my head around how regulations will create jobs. can you explain the economics?
CBF: Jim, the concept is that regulations can push companies to invest in their own plants and workers in the local economy, instead of on CEO bonuses or Wall Street maneuvering. For example the 2006 Maryland Healthy Air Act compelled Constellation Energy to build nearly a billion dollars worth of air pollution control equipment at its Brandon Shores coal-fired power plant. And the new equipment (including a "scrubber") forced the power plant to increase its employment by about 25 percent to run and monitor the scrubber. Tom Pelton
Will: While jobs can be created through environmental projects, have there been any studies or conclusions regarding the net impact on jobs or the economy? I assume that many businesses might be negatively impacted as well...
CBF: Another follow-up to William's question: Some folks might wonder: Why create Chesapeake Bay pollution limits now, during an economic downturn? The reality is that the federal Clean Water Act requiring pollution limits for the Bay and other bodies of water (called a Total Maximum Daily Load) was passed in the 1970s, and it has just taken the federal and state governments a long time to finally get them to get around to doing their jobs. The Bay area states in 2010 submitted plans to comply with these pollution limits. But these state plans were based on previous Bay cleanup plans called Tributary Strategies that were released in 2004 and 2005. So the Bay pollution limits are not really new...and they did not appear suddenly during the economic downturn. The limits represent obligations to make our waters swimmable and fishable that date back many years. Tom Pelton
In response to William's second question: The CBF report contains several examples of economic studies on the impacts of regulations on the economy. One example: Dr. Roger Bezdek examined the relationship of environmental protections to the economy and concluded: “While environmental protection both creates and displaces jobs, we have found the net jobs effect to be strongly positive.” (Source: Roger H. Bezdek, Robert M. Wendling and Paula DiPierna, “Environmental Protection, the Economy, and Jobs: National and Reginal Analyses,” Journal of Environmental Management,
January 17, 2007, page 1.)
Anne: Can you give us some hard and fast evidence of how environmental regulations may actually create jobs?
CBF: Thanks for the question, Anne. In Fairfax County, Virginia, 118 construction workers -- some of them formerly unemployed home builders -- are hard at work right now on a $63 million project to reduce pollution from the Noman Cole sewage treatment plant in Lorton. This project is happening -- and these people are working -- because of Bay pollution limits. Across Maryland and Virginia, as many as 60,000 construction and engineering jobs are projected to grow from projects to improve sewage plants to meet the Bay pollution limits. Tom Pelton
More information for Anne on specific examples: In Montgomery County Maryland right now, the county is creating jobs for about 3,300 construction workers, engineers, supervisors and others to build stormwater control systems to meet Bay pollution limits. One of the private companies working on these projects, Angler Environmental, said his company boosted its employment by 12 percent, hiring 10 additional workers just to keep up with Montgomery County's efforts to meet the new Bay pollution limits. "This really creates jobs for us," said Mike Peny, Construction Division Manager for Angler Environmental, Inc. "These types of projects are what drive our ability to hire and stay in business." (This quote comes from the CBF report) Tom Pelton
Another example: Dr. Eban Goodstein Director, Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College, wrote: “Virtually all economists
who have studied this jobs-environment issue agree....
There has simply been no trade-offs between jobs
and the environment. ” (Source: Eban Goodstein, The Trade Off-Myth: Fact and Fiction about Jobs and the Environment, Island
Press, Washington, D.C., pages 1-7.) Tom Pelton
Carol: Maybe some of the anger over this is issue is based on who is benefiting from these new regulations (job-wise) as well as why they are needed in the first place. Traditional occupations are diminishing as is the rural character of places like the Eastern Shore. Young people who used to make a living working on the water now have options like working at Panera Bread or the new Olive Garden. It's hard to see that as progress.
CBF: Thanks, Carol. The people who are benefitting the most financially from the Chesapeake Bay pollution limits are construction workers, engineers, designers, plumbers, laborers and others who are being paid to rebuild and improve sewage treatment plants and construct stormwater pollution control systems. You mention the fate of watermen. Watermen will certainly lose their jobs if water quality in the Bay is so poor that the oysters, fish and crabs they depend on cannot live -- or if these living resources are overharvested. Bay pollution limits are critical for the economic health of watermen, and they benefit greatly from them. Tom Pelton
Carol: I understand your point of view but think my point is also valid. There are fewer traditional rural jobs and that speaks, in large part, to the continued rapid development of this area which is clearly linked to environmental degradation and the loss of a way of life. The explosion of environmental non-profits in recent years also creates jobs but they are of a different sort, and employ different people, than the farmers and watermen who've historically dominated this region. Thus the tension and anger you alluded to earlier.
CBF: I agree with you completely that overly rapid, poorly-planned development in rural areas is a terrible problem. Nobody wants to see chain store, strip mall jobs replace the jobs of watermen and farmers. For this reason, we need regulations and programs that protect agricultural areas from suburban sprawl, and reduce pollution in the Bay, so that watermen and farmers can thrive. Tom Pelton